KAMPALA – Human Rights Awareness and Promotion Forum (HRAPF) on Friday, April 24, filed a case before the Civil Division of the High Court of Uganda, challenging the denial of 19 homeless youth that are currently on remand at Kitalya prison, access to their lawyers.
The respondents in the case are the Attorney General and The Commissioner General of Prisons.
The 19 youth were charged with ‘doing a negligent act likely to spread an infectious disease’ on 31st March 2020, and remanded to Kitalya Prison.
They had been arrested at a house, which was used as a shelter for homeless vulnerable youth in Kyengera, Wakiso District.
Their lawyers from the legal aid clinic at Human Rights Awareness and Promotion Forum (HRAPF) were not able to appear in court on the day they were remanded, due to the restrictions on transportation that had been imposed the night before by the President of Uganda.
According to HRAPF, efforts to access the clients in prison have so far been unsuccessful with the Uganda Prison Services physically denying the lawyers access to their clients when they visited Kitalya Prison on 31st March 2020.
HRAPF says a letter was then written to the Commissioner General of Prisons on 3rd April 2020 requesting for access to the prisoners for purposes of helping them to prepare their defence as well as to file bail applications, since their case was coming up for hearing on 28 th April 2020. After 19 days, the Commissioner General’s office responded to HRAPF’s letter on 22nd April 2020, denying access and advising HRAPF to ‘be patient until the situation improves.’
HRAPF believes that this denial affects the right to a fair hearing for the accused persons who are expected to return to court on 28th April 2020 for the hearing of their case. Article 28 of the Constitution of the Republic of Uganda, 1995 protects the right to a fair hearing, and under article 44, this right is non-derogable.
“As such, the state cannot derogate from it, even if there was a declared state of emergency, which is not the case in Uganda. Specifically, article 28(3)(d) requires that every accused person should be ‘given adequate time and facilities,” the Forum states