May 29, 2020
May 29, 2020

Human Rights Defenders ask government to use prerogative powers on inmates in a bid to mitigate COVID-19 in custody

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By Mukose Arnold Anthony
Kampala-Uganda COVID-19 Pandemic: Five (5) of the national human rights defender have appealed to the government to release of detainees who are nearing the end of their sentences, detainees
charged with petty crimes as well as those in the age group at risk or with pre-existing health conditions and whose detention is no longer justified as a means to minimized Corana Virus spread in prisons.
In a press statement released by Chapter Four, Avocats Sans Frontières, Legal Aid Service Providers Network (LASPNET), Muslim Centre for Justice and Law and National Coalition of Human Rights Defenders on Friday afternoon, the signatories urge the government to take sufficient steps to immediately reduce the prison population in order to lessen tensions and protect custody officers, healthcare staff, detainees, prisoners and preserve the health of all Ugandans.
They further high human rights violations against the detainees/inmates due to the guidelines including denying access to visitors and open court.
In the same petition to the the Chief Justice, Director of Public Prosecutions, Minister of Justice and Constitutional Affairs, Commissioner General of Prisons and Inspectorate General of Police, they have among other issues asked the government to release unlawfully detained prisoners including those detained beyond 48 hours and those who have clocked mandatory bail.
They further ask for dialogues with judicial and administrative actors so that some steps to suspend the use of pre-trial detention and police custody, as well as release, without bail, detainees prosecuted for minor offenSes that are punishable by sentences of less than two years’ imprisonment.
“In consultation with the competent judicial authorities, grant conditional release to convicted prisoners who comply with the procedural conditions” statement reads in part.
They have also called for Tighten the monitoring of the sterilization of prison units and increase the capacity for diagnosis and medical monitoring within prisons, as requested by the WHO.
“Implement alternatives for prisoners to contact their relatives: such as communication at a distance, behind glass or by videoconference, where possible” The statement states.
They have further called for organized conditions for the continuity of legal assistance provision to detainees to ensure compliance with international law, the African Charter on
These defenders also express fear that the above measures are not taken, the country might face tension and instabilities as a case in Italy and Colombia.
“Government also needs to bear in mind that since the staff-to-prisoner ratio is estimated at one staff to seven prisoners; as the situation escalates and restrictive measures are imposed, there is a high risk that this will cause tensions and instability in prisons across the country” They warn.
“Prisoners are aware and/or will learn of the risks associated with COVID-19. With the threat of rising tensions and possible restrictions, the low staff-to-prisoner ratio will put a severe strain on the management of prisons as prison officers will face unprecedented challenges” they have further cautioned.
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