Police wrong on arresting suspects in court

Sunday September 15 2019

 

By Editor

On Friday, following uproar over rearresting bailed suspects in the AIGP Felix Kaweesi murder at court, police spokesperson Fred Enanga issued a statement.

The statement showed how far apart the thinking of the police force, and by extension other security agencies, is from that of the Judiciary regarding the subject. The acting Chief Justice, Justice Alfonse Owiny-Dollo, condemned the rearrest in strong language.

He mirrored earlier senior judicial officers and a judgment by the Constitutional Court in 2010. When the army first attacked the courts to re-arrest Dr Kizza Besigye’s co-accused in a treason case in 2005, the now retired Justice James Ogoola, who was then the Principal Judge and head of the High Court which was besieged, referred to it as “a day of infamy”.

The Judiciary has underlined the sanctity of the courts as an area where reason and freedom, not force, is the order of the day. But the police’s statement unnecessarily reinforces the coercive mandate of the police and other security agencies and borders on overreach.

The statement reads, in part: “The public should note that the police have powers to enter premises, to arrest a person, detain a person or execute a warrant, if they believe on reasonable grounds that the person is inside that building or premises. This can be with or without a warrant. Therefore, entering a courtroom or being present within court premises does not place anyone above the law or exempt them from law enforcement.”

The statement was directed to both ‘senior members of the Judiciary’ and the public. It would presuppose, therefore, that Deputy Chief Justice Owiny-Dollo and other senior judicial officials who condemned the act before, don’t understand the full extent of the powers of the police force, or have no interest in law enforcement.

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But let’s take the current case for illustration. The police said during their time in prison, the security officers discovered that the suspects had committed other offenses for which they needed to be charged.

If this were the case, why didn’t they inform the court hearing their bail application that even if the suspects were to be released on bail on the murder charge, there were other offenses for which they were to be charged? Why didn’t the police get them charged days before the bail application to avoid the rearrest drama in court?

On close analysis, the logic on which the police statement in question is leaky. While we acknowledge the importance of keeping Uganda safe, orderly and lawful, we condemn in the strongest terms the abuse of process with which the police and other security agencies have acted in cases like this.

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