MPs Oppose Move to Increase Time for Holding Suspects

Police argues that more time is needed to ensure adequate investigations before the suspects are arraigned in courts of law.
Uganda Police Station in Kisoro district
Members of Parliament have opposed plans by Uganda Police force to increase the mandatory hours from detaining suspects in their custody. 

Article 23 (4) of the 1995 Constitution provides that; "A person arrested or detained for the purpose of bringing him or her before a court in execution of an order of a court; or upon reasonable suspicion of his or her having committed or being about to commit a criminal offence under the laws of Uganda, shall, if not earlier released, be brought to court as soon as possible but in any case not later than forty-eight hours from the time of his or her arrest."

However, Police argues that more time is needed to ensure adequate investigations before the suspects are arraigned in courts of law. On Tuesday afternoon, a team from the Internal Affairs Ministry led by the Internal Affairs, Minister Obiga Kania and the Inspector General of Police, Martin Okoth Ochola hinted on a proposal to amend the rule.

The officials were appearing before the Human Rights Committee of Parliament to respond to issues in the 19th Annual Uganda Human Rights Commission Report. The report among other things accuses police of continued violation of the 48 hour rule when the suspects are expected to appear in court. Some of the suspects spend months in police custody before they are arraigned in court.

However, Police say they face numerous challenges working within the 48 hours. "In some cases, judges and magistrates work for some specific days, while in other cases the state attorneys have a lot of work due to the wide area. The 48 hour rule cannot work efficiently here," Erasmus Twarukuhwa, the Director Human Rights and Legal Services in Uganda Police Force said.

Twarukuhwa said for instance crimes committed across the border and those whose investigations require movement within the country and murder require more time. However, MPs rejected the proposal with the Kaberamaido County MP, Veronica Eragu, saying it is not right for police to increase the mandatory 48 hours for holding suspects. Eragu says there should have been a reason why the time was set at 48 hours and not more or less.

"This could only mean that we are incompetent at doing our work, why should we spend a lot of hours detaining someone who still at least by law is still innocent until proven guilty," Eragu asked. Joseph Kasozi, the Bukoto Mid-West, said Police needs to train its investigative officers to handle cases professionally.

"This issue is not really about how much time, but about our capacity. We should ensure that our officers are up to date and are able to catch up with the speed at, which crime is being committed. This will even help to ensure that people are not just arrested but with evidence," Kasozi said.

There has also been a proposal to waive the 48 hour rule for terror and corruption suspects. In 2012, the former Police chief, Kale Kayihura proposed that the time for holding suspects should be extended to 90 days to enable police conduct through investigations.

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