- Amendments to contentious law aimed at making it less draconian
- Detention of persons under DOs to be reduced from 18 to 12 months
- Detainees to have access to Magistrate lawyer and relatives
- Bail, expeditious hearing of cases among anticipated changes
- Blanket immunity granted to officers enforcing PTA to be scaled down
By Chandani Kirinde
The Government yesterday published amendments to the contentious Prevention of Terrorism Act (PTA) No. 48 of 1979, aimed at making the law less draconian.
The PTA (Temporary Provisions) Amendment Act was published in the Gazette by Order of Justice Minister Ali Sabry and includes several changes to the PTA which will reduce the period of detention of persons under a detention order (DO) and give detainees access to a lawyer, Magistrate and relatives.
The aggregate period of detention of a person under a DO under the PTA will be reduced from 18 months to 12 months, under the new Bill.
The amendments will enable an Attorney-at-Law to have access to a person in remand or in detention, and also for the person to communicate with his relatives while enabling a Magistrate to visit the place of detention to ensure that the suspect is protected to the extent provided for in the Convention Against Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment Act, No. 22 of 1994.
The Amendment will also enable the suspect to be produced before a judicial medical officer to ensure that such a person has not been subjected to torture.
Detainees will also be able to apply for a remedy guaranteed under Article 126 of the Constitution which entails them to apply to the Supreme Court, in respect of the infringement or imminent infringement by executive or action of a fundamental right. They can also seek recourse under Article 140 of the Constitution.
The amendments will also provide for holding trials on a day-to-day basis to ensure the expeditious disposal of cases as well as provision for granting bail to persons in remand or in detention.
The Bill will amend Section 26 of the principal enactment, which grants a blanket immunity from suit, prosecution or other proceedings, civil or criminal, against any officer or person for any act or thing in good faith done or purported to be done in pursuance or supposed pursuance of any order made or direction given under this Act.
The amendment to this section makes provision to question an Order made or direction given under the principal enactment despite the protection afforded to officers.
Section 14 of the principal enactment, which imposed a prohibition on publication relating to detainees held under the PTA, will be repealed.
The amendment to the Bill gives a new definition for “torture” to make it on par with the same meaning under the Convention Against Torture and Other Cruel, Inhumane or Degrading Treatment or Punishment Act, No.22 of 1994.