My attention has been drawn to an Op-Ed by Nicholas Sengoba that was published on Page 15 of Daily Monitor’s issue of August 6, under the headline: “Stella Nyanzi’s conviction, the two important lessons”.
The writer makes several sweeping statements that need to be addressed.
Somewhere, Mr Sengooba seems to suggest that it was the first time for the Judiciary/Chief Justice to condemn such acts of hooliganism around courts. He also erroneously wrote that the tough talk was because the “persons deemed opposed to the NRM government are the perpetrators of the violence” during Dr Nyanzi’s sentencing.
For starters, Mr Sengoba ought to know that the Judiciary is neither a political organisation nor do its staff, including the Chief Justice, subscribe to any political party. Once they take Judicial Oath, judicial officers cease to align with any sort of partisan politics, otherwise, they can be subjected to disciplinary processes once anybody brings evidence suggesting partisan tendencies on their part.
Secondly, Chief Justice Bart Katureebe is on record for consistently coming out to condemn any injustices on the courts and on the society as a whole since he assumed office.
The head of the Judiciary condemned in the strongest terms the hooliganism exhibited by pro-Stella Nyanzi protesters in court early this month. The suspects believed to have perpetrated the action of hitting the trial magistrate with a water bottle have since been arraigned in court and await trial.
On the issue of preserving the sanctity of courts, the Judiciary has had several engagements with the heads of the other arms of the State, namely the President and the Speaker of Parliament and these discussions continue to ensure that the independence of the courts is preserved.
As the chairperson of the Justice, Law and Order Sector Leadership Committee, the Chief Justice has held meetings with security chiefs to discuss the relationship between the Judiciary and security agencies. Key on the agenda of these discussions has been the issue of re-arresting suspects after court has granted them bail.
While responding to President Museveni’s June 14, 2018 remarks during the National Budget Day that “bail for (suspected) killers is not acceptable”, the Chief Justice is on record for saying the position on bail can only change when the law is amended.
On January 3, 2018, a group of protesters donning in NRM-branded yellow T-shirts stormed the High Court’s Civil Division in Kampala protesting the subjecting of the Speaker of Parliament to a court process. The act was condemned and the parties involved had to subject themselves to the court process.
In August 2016, when an angry mob protesting the criminal summons issued against then Inspector General of Police, Gen Kale Kayihura, on torture charges, laid a siege on Makindye Magistrate’s Court, threatening the judicial officers, lawyers and other court users, the Chief Justice was widely quoted in the media, including Daily Monitor, condemning the hooliganism.
Needless to say the actions of such groups are an unwarranted direct affront on the independence of the Judiciary, which is protected by the Constitution.
It is, therefore, not true that the Judiciary’s stance on preserving the sanctity of courts is new. This is far from the truth. We have not shied away from speaking out on ills and wrongs against the courts and this will remain the same.
The Judiciary conducts public hearings in open court where the public can follow proceedings.
Under Article 128 of the Constitution, no person or authority shall interfere with the courts or judicial officers in the exercise of their judicial functions. This is at the core of what the Constitution is all about – re-establishing the rule of law in this country.
The courts shall continue to administer justice through resolving disputes between individuals, and between the State and individuals; interpreting the Constitution and the laws of Uganda; promote the rule of law and contributing to the maintenance of order in society; safeguarding the Constitution and uphold democratic principles; as well as protecting human rights of individuals.
The Judiciary shall continue to be guided by the Constitution on the process and operations of courts at all times.
Mr Muyita is Senior communications specialist, Judiciary. email@example.com