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134 INMATES TO FINALLY HAVE DAY IN COURT

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MBABANE – Over 100 inmates who have been languishing in custody will finally have their day in court.

The office of the director of public prosecutions and that of the chief justice have issued a list of old dockets of inmates who have been called to appear before court next month. This is meant to ascertain the status of their matters. According to a memorandum from the DPP’s office dated August 29, 2018, the exact date when the inmates would have their day in court is October 2, 2018 before Judge John Magagula. This will help establish whether the witnesses in the cases were still traceable. In total, there are about 134 inmates on the list and their charges include murder, terrorism, rape and robbery. An analysis of the list shows that some of the cases of the inmates date as far back as 1999.

Directive

Recently, Chief Justice Bheki Maphalala issued a directive to all principal magistrates in the country to make visits to all Correctional centres in order to advance and protect the welfare of inmates. Among other concerns, the CJ stated that no inmate should be kept in custody for a longer period that was unreasonable in all the prevailing circumstances of the particular case in accordance with the presumption of innocence and the right of fair hearing. The purpose of the visits was to advance and protect the welfare of awaiting trial inmates including those awaiting committal to the High Court for trial as well as inmates awaiting reviews and appeals. In July this year, there was a launch of a report on an assessment of prolonged detention periods for inmates in the Kingdom of Eswatini conducted by the Human Rights Commission on Human Rights and Public Administration/Integrity. The whole investigation by the commission focused on inmates who had been detained or incarcerated for 12 months or longer, without their cases being finalised.

Consequences

It was highlighted that one of the main consequences faced by His Majesty’s Correctional Services department was the challenge of overpopulation which also contravened minimum international standards for detention centres. The report mentioned that the department was currently detaining people who would otherwise not be detained if their cases were completed on time. The findings of the report were that the number of inmates who had awaited trial for over a year was 245.


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