Sunday, July 17, 2011

Sub-human prison conditions in Uganda

It is known that inhuman conditions define prisons in many African countries. In Uganda , the story is not different. A recent revelation of "hard life" in Ugandan prisons adds weight to this assertion and highlights the need for a complete overhaul of the country's criminal justice system.

On 14 July 2011, Human Rights Watch released a report about deplorable prison conditions in Uganda. The organization said the treatment of prisoners in some of Uganda's prisons "amount to cruel, inhuman, and degrading treatment and even torture."

The 80-page report is based on visits by Human Rights Watch researchers to 16 prisons - where "prisoners often sleep on one shoulder, packed together so that they can only shift if an entire row agrees to roll at once."

Human Rights Watch interviewed 164 prisoners and 30 prison officers between November 2010 and March 2011.

The report reveals that Uganda's prisoners face inhuman conditions, including, but not limited to the following:
  • Forced hard labor for the benefit of prison staff and private land owners.
  • Brutal beatings by wardens and katikkiros (prisoners with disciplinary authority).
  • Overcrowding (all categories of prisoners are mixed and "squeezed like iron sheets").
  • Deprivation of food and nutrition.
  • Insufficient water (prisoners sometimes drink stagnant water).
  • Isolation in cells ranging from one meter by one meter to four meters by five meters in size; with a bucket for a toilet.
  • Insufficient health care for prisoners, including pregnant inmates and those infected with HIV/AIDS, malaria and tuberculosis.
To say the least, the report shines the spotlight on a broken criminal justice system that locks away, in sub-human conditions, individuals, many of whom have not been convicted of a crime or had a day in court.

The disturbing report is titled "Even Dead Bodies Must Work."

It is worth mentioning that the title of the report mirrors the exact words of a warden to sick prisoners in Uganda's Muduuma Prison.

According to the report (see map on page iii), Human Rights Watch visited prisons and reception centers in Fort Portal in western Uganda, Masaka in central Uganda, Jinja in eastern Uganda, Muinaina, Butuntumura, Mutufu, Masafu, Bubukwanga, Kitalya and Kampala, the largest city and capital of Uganda.

The government of Uganda should implement the recommendations put forward by Human Rights Watch in page 5-6 of the report, so as to restore the basic rights of prisoners.

*Photo: Source.

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