July 14, 2011


April 8, 2011

Dr. J.O.R. Byabashaija Commissioner General of Prisons

Uganda Prisons Service

Plot 13/15 Parliament Avenue

P.O. Box 7182

Kampala, Uganda

Dear Dr. Byabashaija, 

I am writing to you to request information related to Uganda’s prisons.

As you know, Human Rights Watch conducts monitoring and reporting on human rights issues globally. The Health and Human Rights Division, which I lead, has, over the past decade, worked in more than two dozen countries globally, examining such issues as HIV/AIDS, TB, drug abuse, mental health, and access to health care for migrants, prisoners, and indigent populations.

With your permission, Human Rights Watch has recently conducted visits to 16 prisons as part of our on-going monitoring of the criminal justice system. We are grateful for your willingness to allow these visits and for the dialogue our Uganda researcher, Maria Burnett, has enjoyed with you in the past on detention issues. We look forward to continuing this dialogue in the future.  I write today to seek your response to a number of concerns arising from these visits that relate to the health and human rights of prisoners, so that we can ensure that your views are reflected in an upcoming report on these issues.

Conditions vary greatly from prison to prison, and significant improvements have been made in improving conditions and health care in some prisons in recent years. However, some Ugandan prisons suffer from overcrowding and inadequate food, water, and sanitation. Some prisons lack medical facilities, and prisoners may be prevented from accessing community-based or prison referral facility medical care by the determinations of non-medical officers and because they are forced to work.

Prisoners, and some prison officials, told us that convicted and unconvicted prisoners are forced to work without pay on prison officers’ and private fields; prisoners frequently reported canings, and isolation cell use, sometimes coupled with water on the floor, denials of food, and beatings.

Your response to the following inquiries would be greatly appreciated.

  1. Please provide us with relevant Uganda Prisons Service (UPS) policies on inmate labor and on disciplinary offenses and appropriate punishment for prisoners. 
  2. Are UPS officers permitted to use prison labor to work on their privately owned land or hire them out to other private landowners? If so, which categories of prisoners are eligible for such work and what oversight is provided by the UPS?
  3. Please specify how many officers in charge have been disciplined for infractions over the past year, what type of infractions each was charged with, and what disciplinary punishment was imposed.
  4. Please provide us with information on injuries and deaths of prisoners in custody for the past year, including the cause of injury or death, for each prison.
  5. Please provide us with data on the number of prisoners punished monthly, disaggregated by type of punishment, for the past year.
  6. Please provide us with data for the past year on the number of prisoners identified as sick (by type of illness) and number identified as mentally disabled.
  7. Please provide us with the number of prisoners receiving medical treatment in prison facilities and the number admitted to community facilities, by month, for the past year. Please provide us with data on the number of prisoners tested and treated with antiretroviral drugs for HIV (not including antibiotic (or Septrin) treatment) and tuberculosis for the past year.
  8. Please provide us with information on donor funding to the UPS, including the amounts contributed to each project by each donor, over the past year.
  9. Please provide us with a copy of the Fiscal Year 2010-2011 UPS budget.
  10. Please provide us with a copy of the UPS Standing Orders.

We hope to hear back from you by April 29, 2011. Please email any response to burnetm@hrw.org or fax to +44 (0)20 7713 1800.

We appreciate your attention to these important matters.

Yours sincerely,

Joseph Amon MSPH PhD


Health and Human Rights Division

Human Rights Watch         

CC: Dr. Michael Kyomya