Kampala, Uganda | THE INDEPENDENT | Chief Justice Alphonse Chigamoy Owiny-Dollo has put the state on notice saying he will not entertain what he called dilly-dallying when the trial of the detained legislators Allan Ssewanyana and Muhhamad Segirinya takes off.
The warning was part of his remarks at the opening of the New Law Year 2023 on Friday. The event was attended by Prime Minister, Robina Nabbanja who represented President Museveni, Justice Minister, Norbert Mao Attorney General, Kiwanuka Kiryowa, judges, and lawyers.
In what appeared like a direct message to the Prime Minister the Chief Justice said that the judiciary will not accept any excuse and that the legislators will be tried under his watch. The Chief Justice revealed that the trial of the two legislators is expected this quarter from the High Court in Masaka.
“Let me say this to the state. You are the one who brought these accused persons to court. You made allegations against them. The law says they are innocent until you prove the matter in court. When the trial begins and it will begin soon, there will be no dilly-allying, and there will be no games. The State has brought them; the state has got the capacity to bring all its witnesses” Dollo said.
The two legislators; Allan Ssewanyana from Makindye West and his Kawempe North counterpart Muhammad Ssegirinya have been on remand since September 2021 on accusations of terrorism, murder, attempted murder, and aiding and abetting terrorism. They were committed to the High Court for trial in March 2022 on the offence of murder alongside one Wilson Ssenyonga alias Tony Nyonga, for allegedly murdering one Joseph Bwanika.
Now as the trial gets closer, the Chief Justice says he intends to pass the same caution to the trial charge, to entertain no games when the trial begins.
“I will ask the trial judge… Don’t entertain any nonsense in the trial of these members of Parliament. They are public figures. Not because they are Members of Parliament but because they are public figures. They must be tried according to the law,” he said
Opposition leaders have openly faulted the manner in which the courts have handled the matter and accused the judiciary of being “used by the state” to persecute Segirinya and Sewanyana by unjustifiably denying them bail. But Owiny-Dollo who has been silent about the accusations said that like Jesus, he has forgiven them.
“Some people have tried to attack the court. Even wrongfully trying to play politics in judicial matters. One thing we learn from Jesus, is he said forgive them for they know nothing about what they are talking about” said Owiny-Dollo. Similarly, Owiny-Dollo warned the advocates who are to represent the accused persons not to expect to be granted adjournments because of any excuse.
“The trial will go on. We don’t want anybody to make the Judiciary of Uganda complicit in denying any person justice. Now that they are squarely before the High Court, on account of these committals, they will be tried,” he added.
The Prime Minister, Robina Nabbanja stuck to the President’s speech and did not comment on the Ssewanyana and Segirinya case. The President’s speech emphasized the need for trust in the Judiciary which he said is a cornerstone of true justice.
“When justice is truly administered, it guarantees stability, security, and economic prosperity of society” read part of the President’s statement.
President Museveni has in the past openly critiqued the Judiciary over the grant of bail. He said that he is now happy that the judiciary had streamlined the process with the issuance of bail guidelines. “I hope that the courts will now give meaningful bail terms to desiring cases” Nabanja quotes the President
Stamping Out Illegal Detentions And Torture.
The Attorney General, Kiryowa Kiwanuka said he has taken a decision not to represent any government officials charged with torture. “I have refused, and I have written. If a person is brought to me in a civil matter, for which there is clear evidence of torture, I have asked that individual to represent themselves,” Kiryowa Kiwanuka stated.
“So if you illegally arrest, and a civil matter is brought against you, we will not represent you. So you better go back and tell your officers. We are not making a judgment but we are saying our view, you are wrong,” added Kiwanuka
He asks the public to report any case of illegal detention to the Attorney General. “President Uganda Law Society I don’t want to sit at the next event. Where you tell me of illegal arrest when you have not come to me as the head of the Bar. This is not a matter to speak of lightly”
According to Human Rights Watch, the security forces in Uganda have since 2018, unlawfully detained and tortured many people, including government critics and opposition supporters, often in unsanctioned or unauthorized places of detention.
The human rights group said some of those locations, somewhat ironically termed “safehouses,” are residential buildings converted by the authorities to be used for witness protection.