Court of Appeal has no jurisdiction to hear Ssegirinya, Ssewanyana bail petition – judges

Jailed Opposition MPs Allan Ssewanyana (Makindye West) and Muhammad Ssegirinya in court recently. PHOTO/ FILE 

What you need to know:

  • The judges however, noted that whereas the MPs’ application was incompetent, they are concerned that they have been on remand for nine months without being tried

Court of Appeal in Kampala has this morning declined to release jailed Kawempe North MP Muhammad Ssegirinya and his Makindye West counterpart, Allan Ssewanyana on bail.

A panel of three justices; Cheborion Barishaki, Christopher Izama Madrama and Eva Luswata argued that the appellate court does not have the jurisdiction to entertain the two MPs’ petition challenging the high court judge’s decision in which he denied them bail.

The legislators who have been on remand for nearly a year following their arrest last year for allegedly being behind the spate of killings in Greater Masaka that left over 20 people dead, had petitioned the appellate court seeking to be released on bail as they continue battling murder, attempted murder and aiding and abetting terrorism charges.

Sewanyana and Segirinya were first arrested on September 7, 2021 alongside seven others over the said killings. They were granted bail after spending two weeks on remand. However, the two legislators were violently re-arrested as they left prison on September 23 and 26 respectively before fresh murder charges were levelled against them.

They applied for bail but on October 25, 2021, Masaka High Court Judge Lawrence Tweyanze dismissed it on grounds that they are accused of a string of capital offenses that all attract a maximum of the death penalty. The judge further reasoned that the MPs could flee from justice and that given their position in society as lawmakers, they would interfere with the trial process and investigations.

Dissatisfied with Tweyanze’s decision, the legislators who are members of the opposition National Unity Platform (NUP) petitioned the Court of Appeal with seven grounds.

Through their lawyers led by Ladislaus Rwakafuuzi, Erias Lukwago and Shamim Malende the MPs told Court that bail is a constitutional right and that they had been kidnapped by  unknown people only to be dumped in Kigo Prison.

According to their lawyers, if the High Court Judge had considered this and the fact that bail had been granted prior to the re-arrest, he should have ordered for their release such that they can gain temporary freedom.

But the State Attorneys led by Richard Birivumbuka and Joseph Kyomuhendo raised a preliminary point of law  when the matter came up for hearing last week asking the court to deny them bail on grounds that an accused person can only appeal against acquittal or sentence once a decision has been given by the lower court.

The court heard that since Ssegirinya and Ssewanyana were still under trial and had neither been acquitted nor convicted, they shouldn’t have petitioned the appellate court.

In their Wednesday decision, the Court of Appeal Justices agreed with the State Prosecutors reasoning that they do not have jurisdiction to give audience to the legislators.

According to the Justices, they can only entertain the appeal and  invoke their  judicial powers on matters when there is a final order or decree  by the High Court in form of either acquittal, dismissal of charges or conviction and sentencing.

In the MPs’ case, the judges indicated that Ssegirinya and Ssewanyana have neither gone through this and therefore, there is no way they can entertain their petition if they are to follow the laws governing Court of Appeal.  

The judges however, noted that whereas the MPs’ application was incompetent, they are concerned that they have been on remand for nine months without being tried.

They have accordingly directed that the Registrar of the Court of Appeal prepares all the files and takes them to the Principal Judge who should make sure that the case against the legislators is heard expeditiously and their human rights enforced.

Reacting to the ruling, the MPs’ lawyers, Samuel Muyizzi and Shamim Malende told journalists outside court that it sets a bad precedent and that they would petition the Constitutional Court.

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