More than 10,000 remand inmates have failed to appear in court due to the ongoing prosecutors’ strike.
Prosecutors laid down their tools more than a month ago to compel government to give them a pay rise.
Through their umbrella body, Uganda Association of Prosecutors (UAP), the state attorneys want government to increase the minimum pay of the lowest officer to at least Shs8.5 million and Shs40 million for the Director of Public Prosecutions.
Apparently, the lowest ranking State Prosecutor earns a gross pay of Shs645,000. A Senior Principal State Attorney earns Shs2.1 million, the Deputy Director of Public Prosecution is paid Shs2.9 million, Assistant DPP earns Shs2.4 million and DPP is paid Shs11 million. Government pleas to the prosecutors to resume work as it looks into their demands haven't yielded results.
The prosecutors’ strike compelled the judiciary to suspend all criminal court sessions, saying courts cannot continue without the prosecutors. The Directorate of Public Prosecutions is mandated to direct the police to investigate any information of criminal nature, institute criminal proceedings against any person or authority in any court other than the court martial, to take over and continue any criminal proceedings instituted by any person or authority and to discontinue at any stage before judgment any criminal proceedings.
Now, the Uganda Prison Services Spokesperson, Frank Baine, says more than 10,000 remand inmates can't be produced in court due to the prosecutors' strike. He says they have already lost four high court criminal sessions yet 56 percent of the remand inmates are capital offenders, adding that the judiciary has also suspended another 21 High Court criminal sessions that were meant to be conducted by the end of year.
According to Mr Baine, the inmates are complaining and questioning the prisons authorities about their delayed appearance in court. He says they are encouraging them to remain calm as government resolves the prosecutors’ strike.
Mr Baine says besides the logistical challenges of transporting the inmates and congestion in prison cells, the inmates are losing morale especially because it is uncertain when they will get justice. He says while they have capacity of 20,000 inmates in all prison facilities, the number has now shot up to over 50,000 which is straining their resources.
Mr Baine calls on government and the striking prosecutors to come to an amicable solution to ensure that things get back to normal. According to him, prior to the strike they would present 1,500 inmates before court on average each day. About 500 would be released.
He says they are currently admitting inmates, but none leaves since courts are not working. He explains that Uganda Prison Service spends Shs1 million on each inmate on average each year; money he says is likely to increase since the inmates will not spend long than expected.