Institute of forensic sciences will ease crime investigation

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By Betty Iyamuremye

Posted  Monday, December 16  2013 at  02:00

It is with pronounced pleasure that the government has embraced the notion to construct a National Institute of Forensic Sciences in Uganda, the first of its kind in the Greater Lakes Region.

A proposal to construct the institute with support from the Nebraska Institute of Forensic Sciences in the United States of America comes at a time when the country is experiencing countless forms of crime and political and civil unrest.

Currently in Uganda women and men face violence at alarming rates: 59 per cent of women experience violence, 16 per cent pregnant women experience violence while 28 per cent have experienced sexual violence in their lifetime at the hands of intimate partners according to the 2011 Uganda Demographic and health survey.

The police Annual Crime Report 2012 indicates a significant increase in the number of sexual violence cases reported last year; 8,076 cases of defilement, 530 cases of rape and 108 cases of human trafficking were reported at police stations countrywide.

Unfortunately, even with the existence of constitutional laws such as the Penal Code Act, Defilement Act, and many gender based laws, crime occurrence in Uganda continues to manifest various ways by both first time criminals as well as serial convicts. The courts continue to have big backlog while handling cases which to a great extent is attributed to lack of evidence while dealing with highly sensitive cases of crime.
According to the Director of Public Prosecution, a total of 23,497 defilement cases and 1,808 of rape cases were registered in 2012. “Of these, 8,901 defilement cases and 711 rape cases were new cases. Defilement was the third most prevalent offence committed, after theft (73,538) and assault (31,933).

Recently, while addressing the a congregation that had gathered to grieve and remember the lives of victims of the gender based violence (which I happened to attend), a representative of DPP highlighted that the 63 acquittal cases that were recorded were because some cases could not be proved beyond reasonable doubt while others were abandoned by the plaintiffs due to lack of time to pursue them while others due to unbearable costs that were involved to collaborate evidence.

The fact that some evidence may require more than oral submissions, many complainants lose hope in the pursuant of justice. For instance, who can ever forget the drama that ensued when a Member of Parliament, Cerinah Nebanda, lost her life in unclear circumstances.

As if that wasn’t sad enough, the country witnessed unnecessary arrests and detention of politicians and a senior pathologist who was arrested with samples of the fallen legislator shortly before boarding a flight to South Africa where he was supposed to carry out an independent probe. Finally an autopsy and toxicology report was secured from a United Kingdom private firm, ROAR Forensics, which was even refuted by some parties as trust has been lost between the family and the government while justice was being pursued.

Early this year, the Commissioner Directorate of Government Analytical Laboratory, disclosed that the machines for forensic investigations had broken down or expired due to lack of maintenance. Actually, subsequent articles in the media indicated that the country’s forensic investigations could come to a halt anytime soon if nothing is done to repair and maintain the machines. I congratulate government on the efforts to make the dream of having a fully-fledged institute come true. This institute will to deal with cases that requires forensic evidence.

Ms Iyamuremye is a communication and advocacy officer for the Uganda Women Parliamentary Association.