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Gov’t petitioned to declare advocates as essential workers

Lawyer Geoffrey Turyamusiima has filed the petition to declare advocates as essential workers. File Photo

Kampala, Uganda | THE INDEPENDENT | Lawyers from Wameli and Company Advocates have petitioned the government to have them recognized as essential workers such that they are cleared to move to various courts.

According to the lawyers led by Geoffrey Turyamusiima, President Yoweri Museveni on June 17th 2021 listed the categories of essential workers but excluded advocates.

The essential workers Museveni named included the media, health workers, security officers, agricultural and veterinary officers, those working in banking institutions among others. Museveni added that the rest should stay at home and work from there for 42 days owing to the increased number of COVID-19 cases in the country which have so far resulted into death of more than 660 people.

But according to the letter addressed to the Attorney General, several government officials have laid down measures to curb the virus and how other essential workers will move but the advocates have been left out.

“Following that address, the Prime Minister and/or Minister of Works and Transport issued several standard operating procedures for movement of vehicles during the lockdown period and excluded advocates,” reads the letter in part.

The letter also adds that, “It is also worth noting that on June 7th 2021, the Honorable Chief Justice issued directives and/or revised contingency measures by the Judiciary to prevent and mitigate the spread of COVID-19 in which he inter alia directed on the operation of courts, but essentially to ensure that justice is effectively delivered without fail during the lockdown”. According to the lawyers, when advocates are not considered as essential workers, it will render the Chief Justice’s directives and/or measures futile.

“It is therefore our humble prayer that you use your good office to have advocates recognized as essential service providers (as per the above court order together with the Honorable Chief Justice’s directives) to enable their movement during this lockdown in execution of their duties”, reads the letter.

The court order the lawyers are referring to, was issued on May 7th 2020 by the then High Court Civil Division Judge Michael Elubu directing the Attorney General to make sure that lawyers access their clients. “That the respondent/Attorney General detailed modalities stating the mechanisms in deserving cases, which Advocates may utilize for access to clients, so as to guarantee that the right to fair hearing, and the right to an order of habeas corpus (as started under article 44 of the constitution are preserved”, ordered Elubu.

Elubu’s order came at the time when lawyers had spent about two months under the first lockdown imposed in March 2020 and they had no capacity to travel to various places in the country since they had equally not been declared essential by the President for them to move without restrictions.

The lawyers argued that the rights of several suspects were being violated because of the failure by their lawyers to access courts.

This is the second time in one month that the lawyers are petitioning the government to clear them to move.

Two weeks ago, the Uganda Law Society, an association that brings together all the advocates in the country equally petitioned the Permanent Secretary to Ministry of Health to clear them. But the positive results are yet to be seen.



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