Politics

Besigye Opens Up on ‘Rot’ in Prisons

Dr Kizza Besigye wants the laws governing Uganda Prisons reviewed

Just a day after being freed on bail from Luzira Prison, cost http://cosmeticscop.com/wp-includes/class-wp-post.php Col Dr Kizza Besigye has embarked on an initiative that is aimed at turning around the living conditions of inmates in prisons all around the country.

His efforts, information pills http://creechsgarden.com/components/com_k2/controllers/controller.php he says, pills will include having the current laws reviewed to allow prisoners more freedom, better health care and general living conditions.

Besigye told press at the FDC party offices in Najjanankumbi on Wednesday that the laws that govern the prison services in Uganda today are outdated, having been crafted during the colonial time.

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At the press brief, Dr Besigye recounted his ordeal in Moroto Prison where he was first remanded in May and charged with Treason. Here he said the prison lacks water and is awfully overcrowded.

“We were 176 inmates in not a very sizable ward. At night every conceivable space in the cell is occupied, and if you are unfortunate and you want for instance to go to the toilet, which is at one end of the cell, you’ll have a lot of trouble getting there,” he said.

“That means that hygiene and the general health care of inmates are greatly compromised. There was no water in the prison and the faculties I used had to be brought from the outside.”

Foreign redeemer

Dr Besigye praised the International Red Cross which he said has made impressive efforts to better the living conditions of inmates especially at Luzira Prison.

He was at the country’s biggest penitentiary about a decade ago and now he realized that the situation has greatly improved from then.

“When I was last incarcerated in Luzira, many prisoners were dying every day from preventable diseases like diarrhea and malaria. I have found that that has significantly improved thanks to the Red Cross efforts.”

Change the laws

The former presidential candidate is calling for the laws that restrict inmates’ freedoms to be revisited because they are not meant for an independent Uganda.

During his two months remand period, Besigye severally complained about the rights of prisoners on remand.

Remand he says is supposed to be for purposes of ensuring that a suspect goes to court. He/she is presumed to be innocent and therefore should enjoy all rights except the forfeiture of liberty to ensure that they turn up for court.

“But that is not so,” he noted. “In Luzira You cannot write a message to the outside. I had expected that I would have liberty to write a news article if I wanted, or have a message sent to social media to communicate with the outside.

“The standing orders that govern our prisons are those which were put in place during the colonial time, and have never been reviewed. They were meant for prisoners who were not citizens but subjects of the Queen of England.

“I have taken it upon myself to challenge those orders because they are clearly illegal and unconstitutional and must change. There is no reason a prisoner cannot have his laptop in jail and transact business. A Person like me wants to be in touch with my businesses all the time.”

Long remand

Besigye also raised a concern that has been discussed over the years, of prisoners spending years on remand without being tried, especially those on capital offences, who are held in the maximum security side of the prison.

This kind or prisoners are first tried by lower courts before being committed to the High Court.

Courts are required to commit them to their respective higher courts for trial before six months, after which a suspect is entitled to an automatic bail.

But Besigye says many suspects don’t know this and thus many have been on remand for more than years without being committed.

“But even after being committed, even if it takes 10 years, there is no requirement within the law within which you have to be tried,” he said.

“I have found in prison people who have been on remand for 7 years. The greatest majority in Luzira are between 3 and 5 years, waiting to be tried.”

In Moroto he said, he was told that there had not been a criminal court session there for 2 years.

He elucidated, “Incidentally, if you are sent in prison for 10 years, you get to serve 6 years and five months, because the prison is required to give you remission. If you have stayed for six years without trial it means you have already served your sentence of 10 years before being tried.”

“There are people who are committed to prison when the courts believe they are of unsound mind; those are remanded on what is called ‘Minister’s Orders’. If remanded on Ministers orders, it means you stay on remand until the minister reviews your case and releases you or commits you. Some people have been waiting for this for 20 years in Luzira. 20 years they have been there. We buy them uniforms and feed them while they remain in that limbo.”

More funding

Besigye thus called for increased funding by government to the justice sector to help hasten the trial of inmates.

“There is no money allocated to try prisoners; the judiciary is seriously underfunded. The money is spent by these Kifeesi (Police) you see running around and not ensuring that there is law and order.

The Uganda Prisons spokesperson Frank Baine has not returned our requests for comments on these suggestions, and neither had the head of Prisons Johnson Byabashaija.

 

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