RUNDU – The police say there are currently 3 514 trial-awaiting prisoners in holding cells across the country. Police Inspector General, Lieutenant General Sebastian Ndeitunga, made the figures public during the police senior command conference yesterday. Prominent defence lawyer Norman Tjombe said the number is unacceptably high when he spoke to New Era on Wednesday.
Tjombe suggested that all those involved in the country’s justice system must convene and devise measures to ensure that the number of trial awaiting prisoners is reduced to a manageable size.
“From the police, magistrates and judges we all need to come together and see how this situation can be improved,” said Tjombe.
Ndeitunga challenged all law enforcement officers to always conduct in-depth investigations and bring all culprits to book. “The ultimate objective is for us to present the best possible case for a successful prosecution and an informed prosecutor general’s decision,” he said.
Tjombe said although the constitution states that a trial must start within a reasonable period, prisoners still have to endure long pre-trial detentions.
He also expressed concern over the fact that in some cases pre-trial detentions end up being longer than the eventual actual sentence.
Meanwhile Law Reform and Development Commission Chairperson, Sacky Shanghala, said there is no yardstick to gauge whether the number is high or low, but there ought to be a proper study done to see what number is acceptable and what not.
“In this case you cannot just look at specific elements, you need to take everything into consideration and not just prosecution because you might end up compromising someone’s rights,” he said.
“Factors pertaining to prosecution such as the collection of evidence and information relevant for prosecution might also be a contributing factor to the figure,” said Shanghala.
He said there is also a need to look around the legislative framework of prosecution.
According to the International Centre for Prison Studies (ICPS), the total prison population total in Namibia, including pre-trial detainees and remand and remand prisoners, stood at 4 314 in 2011 in 13 prison establishments.
The ICPS also indicated at the time that in 2011, the official capacity of the national prison system stood at 4 475.
The International Centre for Prison Studies seeks to assist governments and other relevant agencies to develop appropriate policies on prisons and the use of imprisonment. It carries out its work on a project or consultancy basis for international agencies, and governmental and non-governmental organisations.
By Mathias Haufiku