Kampala, Uganda | THE INDEPENDENT | Lawyers representing Bernhard Glanser, the German/Belgian national who was accused of molesting Ugandan girls believe that his life was cut short by negligence and insensitivity in Uganda’s judicial system.
The legal team led by Evans Ochieng says that the matter of Glaser’s waning health was brought to the attention of the courts several times as a ground for his bail application. However, the system kept him incarcerated well knowing that his life was at stake.
Glaser had applied for bail to seek treatment for stage four cancer of the skin (Melanoma) and diabetes and planned to travel overseas for medical attention. To back his application, the head of the Uganda Cancer Institute Jackson Orem said that there was evidence of progression of cancer, to a level that could not be handled by Uganda Cancer Institute.
Stage four melanoma means that cancer has spread to other parts of the body, such as the lungs, brain, or other organs and tissue. It may have also spread to lymph nodes that are a good distance from the original tumour which makes it hard to cure. Despite this, Glaser’s request was rejected.
Ochieng says that the judges were insensitive to Glaser and sent him to the grave earlier. He specifically points out Justice Winfred Nabisinde, who presided over the case in Masaka High Court.
Ochieng says that the courts should be sensitive to life without waiting for one to be on his death bed and then grant him bail on stringent terms. Glaser had been asked to deposit 30 million Shillings to the court as a condition for his bail, a day before his death, a demand which according to Ochieng was another proof of insensitivity to a man who could hardly support himself.
The lawyers also accuse the Directorate of Public Prosecutions and the Judiciary for allegations that the deceased had wanted to delay his trial by seeking a Flemish interpreter. Here, they say every citizen has a right to use a language he understands best while facing trial.
But the Judiciary Spokesperson Solomon Muyita told URN that bail is a discretion of the court and Judicial officers have to confirm that once one is released, they will not abscond from trial.
The lawyers are now waiting for consent from Glaser’s family abroad and the German Embassy in Kampala to cremate him in line with his wish as narrated by Quraish Kwesigabo, who has been taking care of Glaser.
Glaser was the founder of Ssese Humanitarian Services, a Community Based Organisation, an initiative allegedly set up to provide rehabilitation services to infected, affected, abused and violated girls in Kalangala district. The centre, known among locals as Bery’s place, also provided psychosocial care to victims of sexual-related offences.
At the place, Glaser hosted only female children who received training in reflexology and sexual reproductive health. But later, he was accused of sexually harassing the less privileged children under his care, leading to his arrest and subsequent trial. He faced eight charges of aggravated defilement and 19 counts of aggravated child trafficking.
Glaser was first arrested in November 2013 after two girls under his care accused him of sexual abuse. He was detained for more than two months and endured a lengthy trial until 2015 when Justice John Eudes Keitirima dismissed the charges against him for lack of evidence. But the charges were reinstated in February 2019.