ALTHOUGH Zanzibar has few prisoners, there are many remandees in jail just because of being denied bail or failure to meet bail conditions, mainly to pay fine.
This was known here when officers from the judiciary and the Legal Aid Department made a rare visit to Zanzibar’s central prison—the reformatory centre—where they talked with remandees.
It was known that most of the remandees were from Primary Courts and Municipal Courts, where many youths are taken for violation of laws including thefts in farms, and selling commodities in restricted areas.
The visit to the prison was among activities to mark ‘Legal Aid Week’ and ‘Law Week’. Some remandees informed officers that they were in cell after being charged with loitering, being drunk, use of drugs and sexual offences.
“Most of these cases are false accusations and the magistrates deny us bail or set tough conditions which we cannot fulfill.
Sometimes they rush and convict, to pay between 50,000/-and 70,000/- which most of the suspects cannot pay,” the remandees lamented.
Rashid Salum-one of the remandees said, “I was arrested early month and charged with getting drunk during the daylight, but as usual we are not given the right to reply or defend.
We ask that petty crime should not have a tough bail condition.” The remandees also complained against small cells, saying they get congested in small rooms and get difficulties to sleep, but in reaction to the grievances from the inmates, Ms Hanifa Ramadhani Said, Director- ‘Legal Aid Services Department advised the lower Courts to find ways of minimizing remandees congestions in prisons.
Advocate General Ali wa Ali expressed his disappointment learning that inmates or remandees who are freed are re-arrested and charged again without proper justification, while the Prisons legal advisor SSP Seif Makungu informed lawyers who visited the cells that the Prisons management has been taking necessary measures to ensure human rights of the inmates are not violated at any time.
Prisons officer reception SSP Mzee Nassor was of the opinion that the criminal procedure law should have a section that allows magistrates and judges to grants bail for non bailable offences.
He said that there are a number of remandees in poor health but cannot be free to return home because their offences are non bailable, “I think let the judiciary system find a way to help the ailing prisoners with non bailable offences.”