Opposition MPs have visited prisons in Mbarara, where inmates complained of torture before they are charged in courts and the long periods spent on remand.
Led by the Leader of the Opposition, Hon. Winfred Kiiza, the MPs visited and interacted with inmates at Kakika and Mbarara Main Prisons respectively.
In Kakika Prison, Katabazi Kayambire, the inmates’ leader told the delegation that many prisoners are tortured and crippled during their arrest by security forces.
“Many times, when prisoners die the blame goes to prison wardens, yet the prisoners are wounded during arrests,” Kayambire said.
He also added that although some of the prisoners are guilty of crimes, many innocent people are in prison because of corruption in the Police and the Judiciary.
Inmates also claimed that they were framed, tortured while giving statements and never had chance to appear in court.
“Today there are very many victims languishing in prisons for long remand periods on false charges, which they have been forced to admit,” he said.
Kayambire added that the prisoners were not registered during the countrywide registration and would find it hard to get along without national Ids when they leave prison.
The MPs on the oversight tour focusing on prisons, judiciary and police in western Uganda include Hon. Muwanga Kivumbi (DP, Butambala), Hon. Anna Adeke Ebaju (Ind., Youth, National), Hon Robert Centenary (FDC, Kasese Munic.), Hon. Francis Gonahasa (FDC, Kabweri), Hon. Betty Muzanira (FDC, Rukungiri district), Hon. Medard Ssegona (DP, Busiro East) and Hon. Johnathan Odur (UPC, Erute South).
Kiiza appealed to the judiciary to hasten the cases of inmates who have been on remand for long periods, in some cases for over five years.
She also said that that Parliament had approved a motion to increase the number of judges and expected that their work would now be made easy.
“We are aware that the Judiciary has always had a problem of Judges. Parliament recently passed a law to increase the number judges,” she said.
Kiiza promised to fast track the law on the provision of free Legal Services by Ugandans, saying that the necessary funds are available, but the item only requires prioritization by government.
Ssegona said that there was need to employ legal aid for the inmates who need to be protected by the government.
“It is true the inmates do not have time with the lawyers assigned to them. Government needs to employ Legal Services for the citizens,” he said.
The Principal Judge, Yorokamu Bamwine, said prisoners remained on remand for longer periods than expected because the Judiciary was understaffed and lacked the necessary funding.
“The Judiciary is generally understaffed. In Mbarara, we have just two judges for the whole region,” he said adding that “In Mbarara Main Prison we have over 1,000 inmates yet the two judges are also in charge of three other districts,” Bamwine said.
Bamwine appealed to Parliament to increase the budget for the Judiciary and improve its staffing to help reduce on the case backlog in the courts.
The MPs are also scheduled to visit Fort Portal and Kasese.