It is nearly four years since the arrest of Rwenzururu King Charles Wesley Mumbere and about 200 of his royal guards following the attack on his palace in Kasese.
More than 100 people are estimated to have lost their lives during an attack on the palace by the security forces.
While he is out of jail on bail, the king’s movements remain restricted, denying him the right of association and the opportunity to offer leadership to his subjects.
Since their arrest, Mumbere’s co-accused have remained in detention without trial, an unconstitutional situation in which some suspects have fallen seriously sick in prison where they cannot access proper treatment or healthcare while about a dozen others have died in detention waiting for justice. Many voices, including affected families, local leaders and human rights bodies have called for justice to prevail in this case, but to no avail.
This week, the Speaker of Parliament joined the chorus of voices calling for a determination in the case of the Omusinga and his co-accused. The Speaker tasked the Minister of Justice and Constitutional Affairs to brief the House on the status of the king’s case and his jailed subjects.
This long drawn out detention has gone on in spite of claims by the government in 2016 that they had overwhelming evidence against the accused. If this was so, then it would be unexplainable why the government cannot expedite the prosecution of the suspects.
The accused are entitled to a fair and speedy trial. If they are proven guilty they serve their sentences, if they are not guilty, they are freed to return home to a productive life.
In any case, if the state now finds that it is not yet ready with the evidence as previously thought, there is an option of discharging the suspects and then reinstate the case once the prosecution gets the required evidence to prosecute the case.
A similar scenario presents itself in the 2016 treason case against Dr Kizza Besigye. Although there was video evidence of the events the State deemed treasonable, and the accused admitted to swearing in himself as president, the case has been kept in the court registry for this long without tangible progress. Despite Besigye’s own admission of swearing in, the prosecution has not moved to build their case, four years later.
The prolonged detention of the Kasese suspects, and the state of uncertainty in which the king and his subjects now find themselves, is grave injustice. By continued detention, the accused are serving an indefinite prison sentence that has not been passed by court. It’s unconstitutional.
Justice delayed is justice denied.
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