Human rights Initiative urges government to provide lawyers for offenders

By Deo Wasswa

Human rights defenders have asked parliament to enact a law which compels the government to provide a state paid lawyer to all offenders facing various criminal charges.

According to Executive Director of the foundation for Human Rights Initiative,Dr. Livingstone Sewanyana, Currently the constitution only allows offenders facing capital offences such as murder, aggravated defilement to access state paid lawyers to defend him in the court.

He said this during releasing of a report entitled, Let my people go: Rights to liberty and security of person during the COVID-19 Pandemic in Uganda.

The report indicates that 72.5% of the inmates who were arrested during the COVID-19 Pandemic were detained beyond the 48 hours rule because they were poor to access personal lawyers.

The report further revealed that the people who were arrested for flouting COVID-19 guidelines and directives paid between 50,000 shillings and above to access a police bond.

Other findings included the overwhelming prison population from 56,424 by the end of 2019 to 61,533 by 31st August 2020 and this was attributed to closure of courts and judicial officers’ unwillingness to grant bail.

During the study , prisons in the districts of Busia, Tororo, Sironko, Mbale, Pader, Kitugum, Gulu and Nwoya were inspected to assess the adherence of the right to liberty with regard to respect of the 48 hour rule.