DDP reason queried
Nicholas Opiyo, another human rights lawyer who recalls handling several cases against Bakaleke says the reason given by the DPP for withdrawing charges is “not tenable”. The DPP in the letter said they had lost touch with the complainants, the South Koreans, and it is this that Opiyo finds fault with.
“They cannot claim that they have lost contact with the complainants. The South Koreans don’t have to be physically present since we are now using video links.” He adds, “The reasons are not very concrete. The South Koreans had lawyers in the country. They also made statements.” Opiyo said the Office of the DPP should have persisted.
According to Opiyo, if Bakaleke showed up in town, he would most likely not be touched because the DPP rendered the High Court’s arrest warrants null.
In April, one of Bakaleke’s lawyers asked the Anti-Corruption Division of the High Court to dismiss the cases against him for lack of evidence. James Byamukama, the lawyer was quoted as saying “It is not proper for the defence to manage the state’s case on whether to strike off someone from a charge sheet or not, all we can state is that the prosecution is not ready.”
He said there have been court appearances in vain without any witness coming forward since October 2018. “We have made applications in this case to have the witnesses’ statements but this has either been ignored or the State just refused,” he added.
One can sense the frustration of the state in dealing with this case. At the time of the lawyer’s entreaties to the court, there had been nine arrest warrants issued for Bakaleke but all in vain.
Solomon Muyita, the Public Relations Officer of the Judiciary told The Independent that the efforts of the court were halted immediately by the directive of the DPP but says sometimes prosecutors use it as a ruse to get those on the run.
“The DPP can put instructions on his/her file giving instructions to the police to bring in a particular person for questioning, he adds, “It could also be a trick for Bakaleke to show up and he gets arrested.”
Muyita says though it is ultimately up to the DPP since he has the discretion to bring back the charges against one of the most notorious officers of the Uganda Police Force.
Witnesses are key
Jane Kajuga, the PRO of the Office of the DPP told The Independent that the office used all the available options to get justice in the Bakaleke case but there were impediments. “You have got to locate the witnesses in the country they are before they can testify before video link. All these options are available to us.”
She says that witnesses always leave behind contact information only that they have failed to contact them in all the ways they have explored.
Reacting to Opiyo’s statement, she says if the lawyers know where the Koreans are, they should volunteer this information. “We know how to trace offenders and if Bakaleke has crossed out of the country, we have the international mechanisms to apply to get him but we don’t know where he is.”
Kajuga says there is enough evidence for the charges but the case was hindered by the absence of witnesses, the Koreans, to testify in court.
She adds that there merely being statements by the witnesses left is not enough because the latter have to be cross examined in a court process. She says the idea that the charges could have been dropped to lure Bakaleke is no more than a “conspiracy theory”.
“We could not keep holding these other eight people. We have to be sensitive to them because they have continually honoured court appearances. It would be an abuse of their rights because everyone is entitled to a speedy trial.”
She says it is common practice for prosecutors to drop charges if they cannot sustain a case but stresses that the DPP is not playing any tactics. Stating that is not good to waste court’s time, she told The Independent that dropping of charges does not act as a bar to further proceedings.