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Wednesday, March 30, 2011

Judiciary sensitises prisoners on their rights

Judiciary sensitises prisoners on their rights

Wednesday, 30th March, 2011

By Hope Mafaranga

Some of the inmates attending the workshop at Katojo prison in Kabarole district

THE Judicial Service Commission and the Justice Law and Order Sector have started sensitising prisoners on their rights.

The move is aimed at empowering inmates with knowledge on court and trial procedures.

The commission’s registrar of education and public affairs, Michael Elubu, said despite them being in prison, the prisoners still have rights.

Elubu was addressing prisoners in Katojo Prison, Fort Portal municipality in Kabarole district on Monday.

Under the theme “Mainstreaming Prison Inmates Rights”, Elubu appealed to prisoners to take a keen interest in learning the law and the language used in court so that they are able to defend themselves during court procedures.

James Tiwangye, a prisoner, complained that courts dismiss their cases due to lack of evidence after they have stayed long in prison.

Responding to Tiwangye’s complaint, the Fort Portal court registrar, Cissy Mudhasi, attributed such scenarios to cases where courts cannot trace witnesses to testify against the accused.

She added that the prisoners had a right to sue the Attorney General in such instances.

Other prisoners put the judicial officials to task to explain the criteria used in selecting prisoners to appear before court.

Mudhasi said the selection must be on a first come, first serve basis.

The eastern regional Prisons commander, Moses Kakungulu, said prisoners awaiting trial lose some of their rights such as freedom of movement and the right to vote.

However, he was quick to add that the prisoners keep their conjugal rights and the right to dignity.

“The right to human dignity is inviolable in all circumstances irrespective of the crime the inmate committed,” Kakungulu said.

The officer in charge of Katojo Prison, Gervase Tumuhimbise, expressed concern over the congestion in the prison.

He said the prison was built to accommodate 281 inmates but it currently houses 627.

Comment: My understanding is that convicted prisoners in South Africa have the vote, but this is Uganda, East Africa...

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