The Democratic Party (DP) in opposition has appealed to all democracy seeking Ugandans to unite and resist the plans by government to scrap bail application to capital offenders for a period of six months.
Cabinet recently approved President Museveni’s recommendation to deny bail to capital offenders and this will soon be processed and call for amendment of the Constitution to have it effected.
Addressing the media during the party’s weekly press briefing, the DP Spokesperson, Okoler Opio Lo Amanu said that bail or pretrial release is a key part of the country’s criminal justice system which needs to be upheld.
“By tying the hands of the Judiciary, the cabinet has effectively passed a vote of no confidence in the discretionary powers of our judicial officers. We believe that the discretion given to the judicial officers are not an open cheque,” Opio said.
Opio noted that the said discretion is exercised judiciously and based on stringent practical directives issued by the Chief Justice.
“There is thus no need to amend the constitution but rather to guide on the exercise of the discretion to grant bail for instance by taking into account the views of victims of serious crimes before bail is granted,” Opio said.
Opio advised that instead there is need to reform the entire law enforcement and criminal justice system.
“Currently, law enforcement is defined by excessive force and brutality by security forces and an absence of due process. The presumption of innocence is the last thing in the minds of law enforcement officers,” Opio alleged.
The DP mouthpiece added that, “We, therefore, demand that the society focuses on restorative justice and non-custodial sentences for light offences, end the persecution of political dissidents under the guise of law enforcement and end the commercialization of bail which puts it beyond the reach of the majority who continue to languish in jail for petty offences.”
He further demanded that members of the police and other security organs who torture suspects or in any way violate their rights by subjecting them to inhuman treatment be held accountable.
DP argued that there is no connection between bail and Mob justice as advanced by the proponents of the amendment.
“Mob justice is on the rise because citizens believe that the police and judicial officers are corrupt and are on the side of suspects who can afford to give them financial inducements in exchange for their freedom. The other cause of mob justice is popular misunderstandings of the justice system where victims of crime see bail as an affront and an insult to them,” Opio noted.
He emphasized that here is a need to educate the public about how the justice system works, fight corruption in the police and the judiciary and ensure speedy trials by filling up vacancies in the judiciary.