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Judiciary blamed over delayed corruption trials

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Judiciary blamed over delayed corruption trials

Mr Hassan Bassajabala being led to court earlier this year. His trial is one of the 251 cases that came to a halt as a result of the closure of the Anti-corruption Court. Photo by Abubaker Lubowa. 

By Yasiin Mugerwa

Posted  Wednesday, December 18  2013 at  00:00

In Summary

The Public Accounts Committee of Parliament raised concern on the unresolved cases of corruption for which the DPP blamed the closure of the Anti-corruption Court earlier this year.

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Finger pointing has taken centre stage months after the Anti-Corruption Court ceased operations upon being declared unconstitutional. The Directorate of Public Prosecutions and the House Public Accounts Committee yesterday blamed the Judiciary.

Deputy DPP Amos Ngolobe told the morning Pac sitting that the court’s closure in mid-July has greatly hindered prosecution of corruption cases which are already hamstrung by under funding.

“We are now taking the corruption cases to the High Court and we have really suffered because of the closure of the Anti-Corruption Court,” Mr Ngolobe said. “At the time of the closure, there were 120 corruption cases pending and we were also processing more corruption cases to go to court.”

This newspaper reported in July that the trial of city businessman Hassan Basajjabalaba was among the 251 cases that were halted at the Anti-Corruption Court after a disputed ruling that questioned the jurisdiction of the magistrates serving under the court.

The ruling followed a successful application filed by Davis Wesley Tusingwire, a lawyer who sought orders and declarations that the exercise of judicial duties in the Anti-Corruption Division of the High Court by a Chief Magistrate and Grade One magistrate assigned there were unconstitutional.

While the DPP and MPs demanded that the court be re-opened to fight corruption, Principal Judge Yorokamu Bamwine said the Judiciary has now established a special unit at the High Court to handle graft cases to avoid the disruption caused to the justice system.

The closure of the Anti-Corruption Court was not raised as a query in the Auditor General’s report before Pac, but committee lead counsel Eddie Kwizera (Bufumbira East) brought up the matter.

Mr Kwizera and committee members criticised the DPP for not following up corruption suspects on bail.

Members noted that high profile suspects are enjoying bail, with only Teddy Ssezi Cheeye in jail serving a 10-year term for stealing Global Fund money meant for HIV/AIDS programmes. Mr Cheeye is the former head of economic monitoring in the President’s Office.

However, Mr Ngolobe said that last month, the DPP secured five convictions in the High Court.

“The problem is with the law and human rights which we must comply with,” Mr Ngolobe said. “We struggle to have these people convicted and when they apply for bail, we object but the appeal court delays to fix the cases for hearing.”

PAC has now asked for a list of all individuals who were charged with corruption offences but are out on bail.

ymugerwa@ug.nationmedia.com