The Uganda Law Society (ULS) has asked Chief Justice Bart Katureebe to speak out on what they called the ongoing abuse of human rights and rule of law in the country.
The lawyers’ body has also demanded to meet him to discuss how court processes can be respected by the various actors.
Justice Katureebe is yet to speak out following the violence in the recently concluded Arua Municipality by-election that left one person dead and five nursing gunshot wounds.
A number of individuals, including MPs and the eventual by-election winner, Mr Kassiano Wadri, were arrested and have since been charged with treason.
Mr Robert Kyagulanyi, aka Bobi Wine, the Kyadondo East MP, was tortured and first charged before the army court with illegal possession of firearms and ammunition, which were on Thursday dropped. He was shortly after charged with treason and joined the 32 others charged earlier.
The lawyers, meeting at their head office in Kampala on Friday, agreed to hold a Bar-Bench forum latest next week to address, among other issues, the handling of torture victims.
They also resolved that the State should ensure the injured persons in custody are given proper medical care and where necessary, arrange for specialised treatment in consultation with the accused persons at the cost of the State.
Reading out the resolutions, Mr Simon Peter Kinobe, the ULS president, said they will challenge some of the provisions in the UPDF Act that are relied upon to arraign civilians before the General Court Martial.
Also, the lawyers gave a one-month ultimatum to the government to ensure that those who perpetrated the torture on civilians during the Arua by-election and the aftermath are prosecuted, failure of which the association will resort to private individual prosecutions.
“We condemn the act of torture in Kampala, Arua and Mityana that led to the death of innocent lives and demand for investigation and prosecution of all those that were involved in these acts of torture.
We condemn the act of torture against journalists that happened in Kampala and before where journalists were flogged and beaten by the armed forces,” Mr Kinobe said.
Mr Richard Omongole, one of the lawyers, blamed the recent chaos on Members of Parliament, whom he said enact bad laws which have eventually been used against everyone.
“We think that the Executive is contributing a lot to the abuse of human rights, torture and rule of law. And we think that Parliament is partly responsible because of the bad laws they are making and yet the laws affect all of us, including them,” he said.
Mr Omongole added that they are disappointed with the Chief Justice’s silence as the law is being abused.
Call to Judiciary
“The head of the Judiciary has allowed the arm of government to be a playing ground. The Judiciary needs to wake up and assert its position and clearly state that ‘you do not bring funny cases that have no legal basis to the Judiciary simplify because you want to get back at certain people. You don’t simply wake up and somebody is at a rally and charge them with treason.”
The meeting also agreed to set up ad hoc committees to investigate relevant provisions on the accountability of the Attorney General (AG) to the Bar as the head and evaluate various public litigations relating to the exercise of the powers of the Director of Public Prosecutions.
Mr John Bosco Suuza, the commissioner of contracts and negotiations at the AG’s Chambers, who represented AG William Byaruhanga, said while it is the duty of the AG to defend the government in all cases, the officeholder cannot prevent errant officers of the State from committing breaches of the law.
“The government does not promote impunity. Those who have been involved are being investigated and questioned. They will be held to account.
The way government operates, unlike other sectors, it never has the liberty to conduct business in the open. Just like those who have been affected by these torture acts, even officers of the state are entitled to certain rights, including fair hearing. Be patient; hold your guns. You will see action,” Mr Suuza said.