Kampala, Uganda | THE INDEPENDENT | The Court of Appeal in Kampala has denied bail to Members of Parliament Muhammad Ssegirinya and Allan Ssewanyana.
The ruling was made on Wednesday by a panel of three Court of Appeal Justices comprised of Cheborion Barishaki, Christopher Izama Madrama, and Eva Luswata.
Sewanyana, the Makindye East MP, and Ssegirinya of Kawempe North were arrested on September 7 2021 alongside seven others in connection to the machete killings in Lwengo and Masaka districts. They were later granted bail on 21 September, but the two MPs were re-arrested from the outskirts of Kigo prisons, and fresh murder charges were preferred against them.
They applied for bail but on October 25, Masaka High Court Judge Lawrence Tweyanze denied them bail on grounds that they are accused of a string of capital offenses that all attract a maximum of the death penalty and that the MPs could flee from justice given their position in society as lawmakers, they would interfere with the trial process.
Dissatisfied with the decision, they appeared in the Court of Appeal raising seven grounds.
Through their lawyers, Ladislaus Rwakafuuzi, Erias Lukwago, and Shamim Malende, they told court that bail is a constitutional right and that their clients had been kidnapped by unknown people only to be dumped in Kigo prison.
According to lawyers, if the High Court Judge had considered this and the fact that bail had been granted prior to the re-arrest, he should have ordered their release such that they can gain temporary freedom.
But the State Attorneys led by Richard Birivumbuka and Joseph Kyomuhendo raised a preliminary point of law when the matter came up for hearing last week asking the court to deny them bail on grounds that an accused person can only appeal against acquittal or sentence once a decision has been given by the lower court.
The court heard that since Ssegirinya and Ssewanyana were still under trial and had neither been acquitted nor convicted, there is no way how they can appeal in the Court of Appeal.
In their decision, the Court of Appeal Justices argued that they do not have jurisdiction to hear their appeal.
According to the Justices, they can only entertain the appeal and invoke their judicial powers on matters when there is a final order or decree by the High Court in form of either acquittal, dismissal of charges, or conviction and sentencing on charges against the accused persons.
In this case, the Justices have indicated that the MPs have neither gone through this and therefore there is no way the Court of Appeal can entertain them if it is to follow the laws governing it.
The justices further noted that whereas the MPs application was incompetent, they are concerned that they have stayed on prolonged remand for nine months without being tried.
They directed the Registrar of the Court of Appeal to prepare all the files and take them to the Principal Judge who should make sure that the case against the MPs is heard expeditiously and their human rights enforced.
The lawyers representing the MPs Samuel Muyizzi and Shamim Malende said that the ruling sets a bad precedent and that they will be petitioning the Constitutional Court.