Justice Centres Uganda was at the heart of the protracted legal battle that saw the release of seven inmates from Fort Portal Government Prison Main – Katojo. The inmates who had been found innocent on grounds of insanity had been languishing on remand for years pending Minister’s Orders.
Of the seven (7) inmates; four (4) were unconditionally set free after having gradually regained their mental stability while on medication; while three (3) were released from Prison and referred to Butabika Major Hospital for Mental Health to receive specialised care. Initially, there were 8 inmates represented by JCU but one, Sande Kahunda, passed away in April 2016 having spent 26yrs on remand!
The process began in April 2015 when JCU filed the first application based on human rights issues challenging the indiscriminate remand of nine inmates.
On the basis of the precedent of Eric Bushoborozi versus Government of Uganda, Constitutional Petition No.64 of 2011, JCU was able to ask the Fort Portal High Court for specific orders for her clients that suited their situation guided by medical evidence by psychiatrists.
Abdul Balyebulya is one of the 4 mentally disabled inmates who was unconditionally freed on 17th September, 2016 from Katojo Prison – Fort Portal having spent 16 years on indefinite remand pending Minister’s orders. Abdul was able to reunite with his family in the village of Bubombori III, Bundibugyo District, like his daughter, who he last saw when she was 3 months old and is now 16yrs old.
But while Justice Centres Uganda led the efforts to free the seven inmates from Katojo prison, there still remain several other persons in Abdul’s shoes who are languishing in other prisons having lost all hope of ever leaving prison alive and others who are in dire need of specialised mental health care. All these still await justice.
The JCU Steering Committee resolved during its 36th sitting that JCU intervenes in the plight of such persons detained in prisons in Uganda having been found innocent by reason of insanity and are awaiting the Minister's orders to be released. JCU is therefore in the process of gathering statistics on the above category from prisons within her jurisdiction in order to intervene in their plight and aid them access justice.
By Angela Mwanje | Published: November 14 2016