Kampala, Uganda | THE INDEPENDENT | Humans rights lawyer Isaac Ssemakadde has petitioned Buganda Road Chief Magistrates Court to quash charges of offensive communication levied against him for allegedly abusing Civil Division High Court Judge, Musa Ssekaana. The charges were instituted by lawyer Robert Rutaro Muhairwe from M/s Elgon Advocates by way of private prosecution on February 22, 2022.
Rutaro ran to court accusing Ssemakadde of attacking Justice Ssekaana when he found Male Mabirizi guility of contempt of court when he repeatedly attacked judicial officers on social media against court orders and fined him Shillings 300million. He notes that while reacting to Justice Ssekaana’s decision on his Twitter handle @IsaacSsemakadde, Ssemakadde made defamatory and demeaning utterances against the judge.
“The Judge has either a small brain or small penis but neither of his Lordship’s inferiorities will be cured by the Ugx 300 million (USD 85,000) fine imposed on our rule of law champion. Judiciary UG shd do more to restrain its ‘young Turks from embarrassing the institution,” he quoted Ssemakadde to have posted.
Rutaro notes that the statements attributed to Ssemakadde are ridiculous, tantamount to criminal libel and are clearly intended to lower the self-esteem and confidence of Justice Ssekaana, embarrass and shame him, and lower his reputation among the right-thinking members of society.
He argued that Ssemakadde is a senior advocate to whom young lawyers like himself look up to as a role model, adding that if his misbehavior of abusing judicial officers casually goes without punishment, it is likely to mislead many lawyers who might see it as normal behavior to abuse judicial officers at will and in turn unsettle the rule of law and undercut the independence of the Judiciary.
He told court that Ssemakadde’s conduct ought to be condemned in the strongest terms and punished so as to serve as an example to other lawyers and the public at large to know that there are consequences for attacking judicial officers. Ssemakadde is expected to appear today before Buganda Road Magistrate’s court to plead to the charges of offensive communication, criminal libel and offences prejudicial to judicial proceedings.
On Thursday morning, Ssemakadde through his lawyers of Walyemela and Company Advocates, Thomas and Michael Advocates and Gem Advocates filed an application before Buganda Road Chief Magistrate’s court to set aside the charges on grounds that the summons issued against him didn’t follow due process of the law, which makes them invalid.
He also noted that Buganda Road Court has no jurisdiction to try him on the offences allegedly committed via an online platform in virtual space, adding that there is an ongoing investigation by the police over the same which hasn’t been concluded.
According to Ssemakaade, he believes that proceedings by Rutaro are not only fundamentally unlawful and demonstrably unjustified, but also tantamount to malicious prosecution, double jeopardy, political persecution and judicial tyranny.
“In the impugned complaint, the said Robert Rutaro Muhairwe does not provide any forensic report to link the said Twitter account to the Applicant, the basis upon which he makes forensic conclusions, and the local council officials cited do not possess the technical expertise to establish that all or any of the alleged offences were committed in their area of jurisdiction’, reads Ssemakadde’s application.
He also contends that he knows very well that Rutaro is working in partnership with Justice Ssekaana to oppress him. “I know from my defensive surveillance that these criminal proceedings were conceptualized and commenced by the private prosecutor Advocate Rutaro Robert Muhairwe in cahoots with Judge Musa Ssekaana for the wrongful purpose of oppressing me,” reads the affidavit.
Adding that, “it is plain from the above, and the papers widely circulated via social media by M/s Elgon Advocates, the law firm of the private prosecutor Advocate Rutaro Robert Muhairwe, that he was at all relevant times been fully aware of the existence of a police investigation vide CID Headquarters KIBULI GEF 136/2022, instigated by his sponsor Judge Musa Ssekaana, in respect of the alleged online publications, and that the same is ongoing.”
According to Ssemakadde, despite this, Rutaro went ahead to file a case against him without disclosing any reason as to why as a dutiful citizen, he did not first seek the cooperation of established national law enforcement agencies before commencing the contentious criminal proceedings.
He argues that the complaint on oath by Rutaro has no merit having been made to a court without jurisdiction and the subsequent drawing of the charges against him violated the State’s duty to conduct a proper investigation before commencing criminal proceedings.
He wants the court to dismiss the charges against him and order Rutaro to compensate him for the damages caused to him as well as legal costs. On February 28th 2022 when Ssemakadde was expected to report to the CID headquarters, he wrote to Justice Ssekaana saying that he had been named as the complainant in the case against him.
“If this allegation is true, I am writing to request and require you to withdraw such baseless complaint or continue to suffer the undesirable fate of being commented upon and or sued for abusing the criminal law to gratify your personal and private vendetta. There will be no further warning,” Ssemakadde wrote.
Although Ssemakadde wrote to Justice Ssekaana privately, the letter ended up in the hands of Rutaro, which makes him believe that they are working together.