The speaker of Parliament Rebecca Kadaga has asked the Attorney General William Byaruhanga to immediately activate the committee of Prerogative of Mercy to help de-congest prisons in the wake of the coronavirus pandemic.
On Monday while appearing before the committee of Parliament on appointments, the Commissioner-General of Uganda Prison Service Dr Johnson Omuhunde Rwashote Byabashaija said that they need to pardon over 2, 000 inmates in a move to decongest prisons to reduce on risks of spreading COVID-19.
However, this can not happen as long as the Prerogative of Mercy Committee is inactive thus forcing Kadaga to order Byaruhanga to institute the committee immediately and release inmates with light sentences as early as possible.
“There is another matter which came to light since Monday that office of Attorney General and ministry of justice have failed on the issue of forming the committee on the Prerogative of Mercy. This is one of the ways our prisons can be decongested,” she said.
She added that as the prison service is preparing to release some inmates, the committee responsible is not in place.
“I recall two years ago the Human Right committee reported to me that the committee on the prerogative of Mercy is no longer working. However I want to ask the Attorney General to activate this committee to help in decongesting prisons especially in this time of coronavirus,” she said.
Prerogative of mercy is the right and power of a sovereign, state president, or other supreme authority to commute a death sentence, to change the mode of execution, or to pardon an offender.
In Uganda it’s supported by the article 121 of the 1995 Constitution section 4; which states that the President may, on the advice of the committee, (a) grant to any person convicted of an offence a pardon either free or subject to lawful conditions.
The committee is headed by the President and chaired by the Attorney General and six reputable members of the public, it is authorized to receive the names of prisoners who qualify for clemency then forward them to the president for approval.
According to Uganda Prisons spokesperson Frank Baine, every year a list of inmates worth this chance is submitted to the AG in August, however, nothing is done since the committee is inactive.
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