Review of Prisoner Remand Terms Urged

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More than 600 prisoners in Uganda have spent two years in jail without facing trial in a Court of Law.
Uganda Prisons spokesperson, Mary Kaddu, attributes this to the loopholes in country's justice system and the indefinite period of time in which criminal cases committed to the High Court are deferred. She says the ambiguities in the system mean that many suspects in capital offenses are forced to spend many years on remand before their cases can come up for trial.
Kaddu also notes that the problem is compounded by the shortage of judges in Uganda, especially in areas that do not have permanent High Court sessions.
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Statistics from the prisons department indicate that more than 4,000 prisoners charged with murder, robbery, defilement, rape, treason and kidnap have completed their six months remand period, but cannot stand trial because of the backlog in the judiciary.
Kaddu's comments come a month after the Foundation for Human Rights Initiative filed a petition in the Constitutional Court challenging the pre-trial detention period which suspects spend on remand.
According to the Foundation for Human Rights Initiative certain provisions of the Trial on Indictments Act, The Magistrates Courts Act, The Police Act and the UPDF Act are inconsistent with the Constitution. It argues that the provisions under contention impose restrictions on the person's right to liberty, bail, a fair and speedy trial, freedom of movement, and the presumption of innocence, by excluding certain offences from the grant of bail and providing for lengthy detention periods.
A census of prisoners in Central Government Prisons carried out by the Justice, Law and Order Sector on September 30, 2005, revealed that the remand population accounted for 60% of the total prisons' population, compared to 39.4% in Kenya and 43.9% in Tanzania.