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Uganda: Over 2,000 prisoners miss Museveni pardon

A total of 2,100 inmates who qualify for clemency, have missed President Museveni’s pardon under the prerogative of mercy window.

The Constitution empowers the President to pardon prisoners on Presidential Prerogative of Mercy upon advice of the Committee of Clemency and the Attorney General (AG).

In August last year, the Uganda Prisons Service listed a total of 2,100 inmates for presidential pardon but officials say the time for the presidential pardon has passed without any response from State House.

The Prisons spokesperson, Mr Frank Baine, told Saturday Monitor in a telephone interview that they submitted the names but they have not received any response.

The President is, however, not under obligation to write to prisons authorities stating his reasons for refusing to pardon some prisoners even as sources blamed the crime wave in the country.

Prisoners who qualify for pardon include the elderly, expectant and breastfeeding mothers and the terminally ill.

Other beneficiaries of the parole are convicted capital offenders whose remaining sentence is less than six months as well as those on death row but have had their sentences reduced to life imprisonment.

In June last year President Museveni threatened to order the hanging of prisoners on death row in a bid to curb rampant killings in the country.

The President said he had not sanctioned execution of condemned prisoners for a long time because of his Christian values.

“I believe that this lenience is becoming a problem. I am going to revise this and hang a few. We must hang some of these people because if you see how they kill people, they deserve to be killed,” Mr Museveni said while presiding at the passing out ceremony of 706 prisons officers at Luzira Prisons grounds.

Human rights activists have, however, castigated President Museveni for failing to exercise his statutory mandate to release the prisoners under the Presidential Prerogative of Mercy as provided for in the Constitution.

The Executive Director of the Foundation for Human Rights Initiative, Dr Livingstone Sewanyana, said: “The prerogative of mercy as a matter of discretion by the President would be difficult to effect considering his pronouncement to resume executions.”

In a separate interview, Mr Ladslaus Rwakafuuzi, a human rights lawyer, said there is no formal means on how a person can access that prerogative because the parole is discretional.

“And therefore, a lot is left to lobbying yet if there was a specific law and procedure on how one can access and the requirements to satisfy, one would make an application,” Mr Rwakafuuzi said, adding that it would have been easier and streamlined.

“We need a specific law on how someone can access that prerogative of mercy because without it (law), it is left to lobbyists,” he said, citing the release of Indian businessman, Sharma Kooky in 2012.
Mr Kooky was convicted and jailed for murdering his wife, Renu Joshi but he was released after spending 12 years at the Luzira Maximum Security Prison.

The lawyer said his release was a result of lobbying by the various stakeholders.
The last time the President pardoned prisoners was in 2013.

Those released
Brig Ali Fadhul, a former minister for Provincial Administration in Idi Amin’s regime, was released in 2009 after spending more than 20 years in prison.

Former minister for Security in the Milton Obote II government, Mr Chris Rwakasisi, who had been on death row for two decades, was released in the same year.

Another beneficiary of the presidential prerogative of mercy is Mr Abdallah Nasur, former Central Province governor during Amin’s regime (1971-1979), who was released in 2001 after spending 20 years in prison.

By Daily Monitor

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