Release of 1000 Inmates Hangs in Balance

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In short
The hope of having 1000 inmates released during the Uganda Independence Jubilee celebrations were dashed by the Prisons department’s failure to provide full details on the trial and sentencing of the prisoners.

The hope of having 1000 inmates released during the Uganda Independence Jubilee celebrations were dashed by the Prisons department’s failure to provide full details on the trial and sentencing of the prisoners.
In July this year, Uganda Prisons Department compiled a list of more than 1,000 prisoners who were to be released as part of the activities to mark the country’s 50 years of independence.

Uganda Prisons spokesperson, Frank Baine, then said the list included among others elderly inmates, all prisoners on death row, all capital offenders remaining with six months to complete their sentences and minor offenders. Pregnant and breastfeeding mothers, the terminally sick like those with HIV/Aids and mentally sick prisoners were also included on the list.
The names were forwarded to the Prerogative of Mercy committee of the Ministry of Justice and Constitutional Affairs for consideration. The committee, which is chaired by the Attorney General, is mandated to vet the names and forward those deserving to the president who sets them free under the prerogative of mercy.
Article 121 of the constitution empowers the President to grant any person convicted of an offense a pardon either free or subject to lawful conditions.
However, the list was not worked on and nobody was released during Uganda’s Independence celebrations early this week.

Speaking to Uganda Radio Network, a member of the committee who preferred anonymity confirmed receipt of the 1,000 names but added that the list was lacking in detail.

The prisons department was supposed to give reasons why they feel the prisoners should benefit from the prerogative of mercy. They were also supposed to indicate what the prisoners were charged with, when they were sentenced and how much of the sentence they have served. The official further says the prisons department was also supposed to attach a copy of the sentencing report from the trial magistrate.

The member insisted it was not mandatory for government to release prisoners during independence celebrations, but added that the list would be considered when they receive relevant documents.

He argued that the committee was not in place to undo the work of the Judiciary or even act as a clearing house for the release of prisoners because it would amount to abuse of the committee’s mandate.

Prominent among those who were expected to be released was former Tooro Prime Minister, John Katuramu. Katuramu was convicted in 2002 for the murder of two people including Prince Charles Happy Kijanangoma, who was King Oyo’s paternal uncle.

However, some members of the Tooro community have written to the committee objecting to the release of Katuramu arguing that he had murdered other people before and had never been prosecuted.

The committee member also revealed to URN that a small community from Katuramu’s home area has written to the prerogative of mercy committee consenting to the release arguing that Katuramu was developmental.

We provide that information in form of a chart with details of date of sentencing and the date they are due for release.

Frank Baine, the prisons department publicist, however, says what the committee member described as a report by the trial magistrate only applies in cases of sentencing review which only applies to minor offences but not in cases to the prerogative of mercy, where even capital offences are taken.

Some of the death-row prisoners who have benefited from a presidential pardon over the last 10 years include Col Nasur Abdullah, the central province governor during Idi Amin’s regime. Brigadier Ali Fadhur, a former Amin soldier who commanded the then Simba battalion in Mbarara, was also released. The two had been convicted for murder and had spent over 20 years in jail.
Others are former minister for security in the Obote II regime, Chris Rwakasisi, who was released in 2008 after spending over 20 years on death row for murder and kidnap, and Sharma Kooky, a businessman of Indian origin who was in 2000 convicted for the 1997 brutal murder of his wife Renu Joshi. Kooky was released in March this year.


Mentioned: prisons department