Opposition National Unity Platform (NUP) party leadership has said courts are under duress to deny people bail following President Museveni’s remarks on the subject last month.
The leaders made the remarks shortly after their embattled MPs, Mr Muhammad Ssegirinya (Kawempe South) and Mr Allan Ssewanyana (Makindye West) were again denied bail yesterday.
This was the third consecutive time that the legislators — who are remanded on murder charges connected to the recent machete-wielding gangs in the Greater Masaka region — were denied bail. “We know all the judges are scared of giving people bail because of what Gen Museveni said, but that is against the law. He is influencing their decision,” NUP secretary general David Lewis Rubongoya told the media.
Constitutional law experts have warned that denying suspected capital offenders bail threatens the presumption of a suspect’s innocence until proven guilty.
The right to apply for bail is a fundamental right enshrined in Article 23 (6) of the 1995 Constitution. Its basis is found in Article 28 of the same Constitution which states that an accused person is to be presumed innocent until he/she is proved or he/she pleads guilty.
A fortnight ago, the Cabinet endorsed criminal justice reforms, among them amendments to the 1995 Constitution and the Police Act, to deny suspects on suspected capital offences bail or police bond.
Cabinet sources singled out suspects on murder, rape, and robbery and treason charges, among others, as the main target for the proposed reforms.
Mr Ssegirinya and Mr Ssewanyana were granted bail two weeks ago, but they were later rearrested by security.
NUP spokesperson and Nakawa West MP Joel Ssenyonyi said they “shall fight and make sure [the move to scrap bail] does not pass”.