By Watchdog reporter
Last week on Friday, judicial officers under their umbrella body Uganda Judicial Officers’ Association resolved to lay down their tools indefinitely until government work on their unsolved grievances which among others included low pay.
The strike has greatly affected civil societies, government and the general public at large.
Now, the Uganda Prisoners’ Aid Foundation has come out to condemn the ongoing strike for the judicial officers citing that the move is likely to undermine the contribution of the Justice, Law and Order Sector (JLOS) institutions.
“The Foundation finds this her duty to not only inform the public but also call upon government, the constitutional bodies, civil society and other non-state actors to pick interest in the apparent situation before it escalates to other JLOS institutions,” said JK Zilabamuzale, Chairman Uganda Prisoners’ Aid Foundation.
“This situation will undermine the contribution of the JLOS institutions, the understanding of correctional policies in pursuit of local and international instruments which are dealing with the rights of prisoners in particular and human beings in general, let alone the social rehabilitation process,” He added.
Uganda Prisoners’ Aid Foundation further notes that the judicial officers’ strike makes it impossible to implement the UN instruments on the standard minimum rules for the treatment of offenders, the Riyadh Guidelines, the Tokyo Rules, the Beijing Rules and local instruments. More so this undermines the obligations of Uganda as a state party to the UN Convention against Torture and other cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment and punishment and other related matters.
Article 24 of the Constitution provides that no person shall be subjected to any form of torture or cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment. Some readers may think that the Foundation’s intervention is belated because it seems to be at the end of the process as prisons appear at the last stage of the criminal justice system. However, the Prevention and Prohibition of Torture Act 2012 has it all detailed.
According to Ziramuzale, the careful examination of the situation reveals that the justice system is seen and understood as a linear process. The judicial officers’ strike portrays it differently because police is massively and indiscriminately arresting citizens, leaving them in police cells for months even when courts were functional.
“Uganda Prisoners’ Aid Foundation calls upon the government to look into the concerns of the judicial officers without delay to ensure the police cells are cleared; and not to prompt the police to open other ungazetted police cells but also to clear the backlog in courts and the overcrowding in prisons,” he further stated.