State House scoffs at bail petition against Museveni

Rtd Justice George Kanyeihamba (centre) and other petitioners, who are students of Law at Makerere University, address the media before handing in their petition to the Registrar of the Court of Appeal in Kampala recently. PHOTO/ISAAC KASAMANI

What you need to know:

  • In his petition that he filed before the Constitutional Court on Monday, Justice Kanyeihamba, contends that the President, NRM and Mr Kiwanuka are hatching a plan to alter the Constitution and threaten the right to bail. 

State House has scoffed at a petition filed by former Supreme Court judge George Wilson Kanyeihamba in which he has sued the President for allegedly trying to trigger a constitutional amendment on bail for people accused of capital offences. 

If successful, the amendment will make it hard for the judges to release suspects of capital offences on bail before they have been on remand for at least 180 days.

In a statement issued yesterday, Mr Faruk Kirunda, the deputy presidential press secretary, described the petition as “speculative, premature and misleading.” 
He added that since “justice is not one-sided”, a tradeoff ought to be struck between “the rights of the victims and those of the suspects.”

Sued alongside President Museveni is his ruling party, the National Resistance Movement (NRM), and the Attorney General, Mr Kiryowa Kiwanuka.
In his petition that he filed before the Constitutional Court on Monday, Justice Kanyeihamba, contends that the President, NRM and Mr Kiwanuka are hatching a plan to alter the Constitution and threaten the right to bail. 

According to Uganda’s laws, a sitting President is immune to court proceedings until he/she leaves office. The head of state can only be sued before the Supreme Court in a presidential election petition. The retired judge, however, contends that the purpose of the legal action is to stop the intended bail/ bond legal reforms by President Museveni.

Decade-long push
President Museveni recently renewed his decade-long push to scrap bail for suspects facing grave charges. He held that their release is a provocation to the victims, and possibly precipitates mob action. 

A memo Mr Kiwanuka tabled before Cabinet nearly a fortnight ago set the proposed amendments in motion. Mr Kiwanuka, 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.

Further, Mr Kiwanuka wants, “substantial surety” to be expressly defined in law, a national register for bail offenders to be created, a bail compliance enforcement entity to be introduced either under police or private enforcers, DPP be given powers to give a certificate of objection to bail applicants and judicial officers be required to give justifiable reasons in writing for their decisions to grant or decline bail.

To that effect, Justice Kanyeihamba contends that he will rely on the memorandum of the Attorney General,  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 he says threaten the right to bail and release on police bond.

Proposals
The Attorney General, 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.

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