What you need to know:
- Uganda’s laws insulate a sitting President from court proceedings until he/she leaves office
President Museveni has been sued for allegedly pushing through constitutional amendments that make it hard for judges to grant bail to suspects facing capital offences.
In a lawsuit filed before the Constitutional Court yesterday, retired Supreme Court judge George Wilson Kanyeihamba sued the head of state alongside Attorney General Kiryowa Kiwanuka, and the ruling National Resistance Movement (NRM) party for “threaten[ing] to violate the fundamental laws of Uganda and intend[ing] to alter the constitution.”
The lawsuit further adds: “Following the actions of the first respondent (Mr Kiryowa) and second respondent (Mr Museveni) to this petition, the right to bail application and release on police bond is hereby, threatened and likely to be violated, thus undermining the supremacy of the constitution.”
What law says
Uganda’s laws insulate a sitting President from court proceedings until he/she leaves office. Legal proceedings can, however, be instituted against a president in the Supreme Court in a presidential election petition.
Justice Kanyeihamba says the legal action is to prohibit “Y.K Museveni Tibuhaburwa, the National Resistance Movement party and its organs, Attorney General and his agents from altering article 23 and the Police Act or any provisions of the international agreement or protocols relating to the right for bail application, the hearing of which is in itself an absolute right guaranteed under the chapter 4 and article 23 of the constitution.”
President Museveni recently renewed his decade-long push to scrap bail for suspects facing grave charges, reasoning that their release is a provocation to the victims. This, he added, was causing mob action.
Consequently, Mr Kiryowa tabled a memo before the Cabinet nearly a fortnight ago, seeking to amend the Constitution and the Police Act. The end goal is to tighten the hands of judicial officers and police in exercising the discretion to grant or deny bail and bond respectively.
In the proposals prepared for Cabinet consideration, Mr Kiryowa, among others, proposes that Article 23(6) (b) of the Constitution be amended to provide that a person accused of committing an offence triable by both the High Court and subordinate courts, shall not be granted bail until after 180 days or trial commencement, or when the Director of Public Prosecutions (DPP) discontinues proceedings, whichever is earlier.
The Attorney General is also seeking changes to Article 23(4) (b) and Section 25 of the Police Act, both of which require a suspect to be released on police bond if not charged in court within 48 hours, to qualify the period as “forty-eight business hours.”
To that effect, Justice Kanyeihamba contends that he will rely on the memorandum of the Attorney General, recommending the alteration of the Constitution and the Police Act, President Museveni’s address at the Benedicto Kiwanuka fourth memorial lecture and publication of the newspaper excerpts on the same subject to prove his case.
He now wants an order of court, stopping the Attorney General, President Museveni and any other person or group of persons from any such actions that threaten the right to bail and release on police bond.
Justice Kanyeihamba’s co-petitioners are; John Solomon Nabuyanda, Edrine Price Bbosa, Alex Wavumuno, Williams Ronald Asiimwe and Simon Ssenyonga, majority of whom are student human rights activists.
By press time, the court had not summoned the President and the Attorney General to file their defence in light of this lawsuit before a hearing date can be set.