Kampala, Uganda | THE INDEPENDENT | The Mukono Grade One Magistrates Court has set March 15th, 2023 to deliver its ruling on whether there is a prima facie case against three security officers in relation to their shoot-to-kill order against robbery suspects.
Mukono Grade One Magistrate, Paul Matyama set the date on Monday afternoon in a private suit initiated by jailed city lawyer Male Mabirizi against Edward Ochom, the retired Director of Operations in the Uganda Police Force, Stephen Tanui, the Kampala Metropolitan Area Police Commander, and Col. Fred Mwesigye, the commandant of UPDF’s operation Tokora.
Prima facie is established when the evidence produced in court, properly directing its mind on the law and evidence, would convict the accused person if no evidence or explanation was set up by the defense. The court will summon the accused officers once it establishes that Mabirizi has established a prima facie case against them. On the contrary, should the court find that Mabirizi has failed to establish a prima facie against the officers, the court will drop the charges against them.
During the hearing, Mabirizi reminded the court that the circumstances of the dispute are that the accused are senior officers who are being brought to court for the second time on allegations of commanding their juniors to shoot suspected robbers instead of taking them to courts of law. “They will not be taking pleas but they need to tell the court whether they did issue the order or not,” he said.
On July 2022, Mabirizi filed an application, which was dismissed by Matyama on grounds that the court had no jurisdiction to hear the case. Mabirizi had wanted the court to charge the trio with derogation of a nonderogable right and freedom guaranteed under the constitution contrary to the Human Rights Enforcement Act of 2019.
He claimed that on June 29, 2022, while in Mukono district, the trio ordered their juniors to shoot and kill any person suspected of engaging in aggravated robbery without recording statements from them or producing them before courts of law thereby derogating the right to a fair hearing.
Dissatisfied with the court decision, Mabirizi filed an application before Mukono High Court in August 2022, in which he asked the court to exercise its power to supervise the Magistrate’s court and overturn its ruling on the case for lack of jurisdiction, reinstate the case and summon the accused persons to appear before the chief magistrate’s court.
The matter is still pending before the High court in Mukono. He also filed another application under section 42(1) (c) of the Magistrate’s Court Act instituting charges against the trio for incitement to commit an offense contrary to section 21(1) of the penal code act and punishable with death, common nuisance contrary to section 16 (1) of the penal code act, cap 120 and disobedience of statutory duty contrary to section 116 of the penal code act, cap 120.
He asked the court to issue criminal summons against the trio to answer the charges, which attract a maximum of 10 years imprisonment. Mabirizi also asked the court to issue a production warrant directing Uganda Prisons Services to produce him physically before the Mukono magistrate’s Court to enable him to prosecute the case properly.
Mabirizi is currently serving 18 months in Luzira Upper-Security Prison handed to him by High Court Civil Division Judge Musa Ssekaana for contempt of court on February 15, 2022. The trio’s troubles started when video footage aired on various news channels went viral showing them saying that they are fed up with robbers and ordering their juniors to shoot them on-site before inquiries are conducted to establish how they acquired the firearms.
The officers made the comment in a security meeting held days after robbers attacked Spice Supermarket in Mukono district where they shot the cashier, Irene Nakandi, and made off with an unspecified amount of money.