Maputo — The Mozambican parliament, the Assembly of the Republic, on Monday approved a bill submitted by President Filipe Nyusi granting a pardon to all those in Mozambican jails serving prison sentences of up to a year.
The purpose of the bill is to relieve the chronic overcrowding in Mozambican prisons, as part of the drive to prevent the spread of the Covid-19 respiratory disease
The bill covers all people sentenced to up to a year, regardless of whether courts also ordered them to pay fines.
The pardon is granted on the condition that those released from prison do not commit other crimes in the following five years. If they do, they will have to serve the rest of their sentence, in addition to whatever sentence the courts impose for the new crimes.
People accused of minor offences which carry a short prison term, but who have not yet come to trial, are amnestied.
The pardon and amnesty do not cover such crimes as murder, the rape of minors, trafficking in people or human body parts, drug trafficking, terrorism and the financing of terrorism, money laundering, corruption, and crimes against state security. But in these cases courts would be most unlikely to hand down sentences as lenient as a year's imprisonment or less.
The amnesty and pardon do not wipe out the civil responsibility of the accused, and those whose interests were damaged by the accused can still take civil action against them.
Once the deputies had unanimously passed the bill, Nyusi immediately promulgated it. It will become law as soon as it is printed in the official gazette, the "Boletim da Republica".
Justice Minister Helena Kida, who presented the bill to the Assembly, on behalf of Nyusi, said that most of the country's prisons were built during the colonial period, and are now seriously overcrowded. There are over 21,000 inmates in the prisons although they have a theoretical capacity of only 8,000.