Premature Arrests Blamed for Delayed Justice

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In short
According to the report, released today at Hotel Africana in Kampala, 26,978 inmates or 52 of Ugandas 51,882 prison population have spent at least one year in prison awaiting trial.

The Foundation for Human Rights Initiative (FHRI) today released a report highlighting the plight of pre-trial detainees in the Uganda prisons system.

According to the report, released today at Hotel Africana in Kampala, 26,978 inmates or 52% of Uganda's 51,882 prison population have spent at least one year in prison awaiting trial.

Lizel Vlamings, the senior researcher at FHRI, told Uganda Radio Network that the findings showed an abuse of the rights of the Ugandans who have been denied a 'fair, speedy and public hearing as should be the case according to the Constitution of Uganda.

"The constitution provides for several time limits throughout the different stages of pre-trial detention, namely 48-hour limit in police custody, 60-day limit on remand for suspects in non-capital offences, and a 180-day limit before committal to the High Court for suspects of capital offences," said Vlamings.

Despite such regulations in place, 92% of the suspects of both capital and non-capital offences that were interviewed by FHRI indicated having spent more than 48 hours in police detention. The average stay in police detention for suspects of capital offences interviewed by FHRI was 305 hours, or 12.7 days, and 271 hours, about 11.3 days for suspects of non-capital offences.

The major reason of the abuse of the set time limits according to the report is the practice of law enforcement officers carrying out arrests before proper and adequate investigations are carried out.

 "I keep on telling the police before you arrest somebody and subject them to prosecution, make sure the person has committed the crime and evidence is there. The state does not compensate people when court finds out the person is innocent, and some people use it to settle scores like land, women and money," Parodi Faith Everness,  Grade One Magistrate of Arua, said.

Other reasons cited included, poor monitory systems of suspects, the fear of the occurrence of mob justice, insufficient legal representation and corruption in the legal system.

The report titled "Justice Delayed, is Justice denied" said Ugandan prisons operate at high capacities as far as congestion and overcrowding are concerned compared to neighbouring Tanzania and Kenya. Uganda's operating capacity is 312% compared to 115.7% and 202.4% of Tanzania and Kenya respectively.

Referring to it as accurate and overdue, the public relations officer, Uganda Prisons Service Frank Baine welcomed the report.
 
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The report proposes the allocation of more resources by the Ministry of Finance into the police force to better equip their investigations department as a means by which the high number of pre-trial detainees can be reduced. In addition, the judicial system was also another area mentioned where money could be injected into to provide legal aid for the detainees.
 
The findings of the report were based on research that was carried out between June 2016 and February 2017.