Govt appeals judgment banning trial  of civilians in military courts

Former Nakawa Division Member of Parliament Michael Kabaziguruka (centre) appears before the General Court Martial on October 17, 2016. PHOTO/MICHAEL KAKUMIRIZI

What you need to know:

  • The State had accused Mr Kabaziguruka and group of plotting to infiltrate Defence and overthrow the government by use of firearms.

Government yesterday commenced the appeal process to challenge the Constitutional Court landmark judgment that stopped military courts from trying civilian suspects.
The government in its notice of appeal  to the Supreme Court states that it is dissatisfied with last week’s decision of the Constitutional Court that declared as unconstitutional for the military courts to try civilians.

“Take notice that the respondent (government) being dissatisfied with the judgment of the honourable court delivered on July 1, 2021, intends to appeal to the Supreme Court of Uganda against part of the judgment,” the appeal notice  reads in part.

Last Thursday, in a decision of 3:2, the Constitutional Court ruled that it is unconstitutional for civilians to be tried in the military courts, especially if they haven’t subjected themselves to the military system.
“The General Court Martial’ s jurisdiction is only limited to trying offenses specified under the Uganda People’s Defence Force (UPDF) Act, only in respect of persons subject to the military law,” Justice Kenneth Kakuru, one of the majority three justices, ruled.

The justices said the decision of the court did not mean civilians who were being tried before the military courts are now free.
Instead they directed that their case files be transferred to civilian courts on the advise of the Director of Public Prosecutions (DPP) for further management within 14 days from the date of judgment.

But government faulted the  judges for having erred in law and fact in determining that the jurisdiction of the General Court Martial was only limited to trying military offences.
“The learned majority justices of the Constitutional Court erred in law in finding that the General Court Martial is not impartial or independent and is inconsistent with Article 28 (1) of the Constitution,” reads in part the notice to appeal.

The decision of the court arose from a petition filed by former Nakawa Division MP Michael Kabaziguruka who was challenging the constitutionality of the military court in trying him as a civilian.
 Mr Kabaziguruka had successfully argued that the military court can’t be impartial on grounds that it is attached to the Executive arm, which is appointed by the High Command and chaired by the head of state, who has powers to hire and fire them.

The former legislator, alongside 20 UPDF officers, were being tried before the General Court Martial in Makindye over offences of treachery and others related to security.
The State had accused  Mr Kabaziguruka and group of plotting to infiltrate Defence and overthrow the government by use of firearms.
The offences were allegedly committed between February and June of 2016 in Kampala, Wakiso and Luweero.