COGNISANT of the fact that for the past years in particular, following the promulgation of the 1995 Constitution Uganda has been walking along the path to Rule of Law. Constitutionalism and Democratic governance.
WHEREAS Chapter Four of the Constitution guarantees the enjoyment of fundamental rights and freedoms as inherent and not granted by the state and obligates all organs and agencies of government to respect and uphold these rights and freedoms:
AND RECOGNISING that Article 212 in the same Constitution mandates the Police to keep law and order:- a situation that may sometimes call for the limitation in the enjoyment of these rights and freedoms AND in apparent recognition of the need for Police to be able to execute this mandate and in order for the people not to prejudice the rights and freedoms of others, the framers of our constitution also made provision for Article 43 which renders the rights and freedom prescribed by the Constitution as not being absolute by providing for qualified instances where these rights may at times be subjected to limitations in public interest. Even then, the same article provides that no such limitation should go beyond what is acceptable and demonstrably justifiable in a free and democratic society or what is provided under the constitution!
However, along this otherwise hopeful highway in the constitutional development of our country, there have been a string of events which have since sent clear signals that, as a country we have since lost the direction that was set by the 1995 Constitution as our compass as we strive to move along the path of Constitutionalism and Rule of Law.
We are concerned about the events of the last three weeks, the current human rights situation in the country and the role of the Police Force (and indeed the other security organs including the military) in keeping law and order. We are especially appalled by the events of the recent past where Police has been caught in the middle of circumstances that have led to wide-spread condemnation on their high handed responses to situations causing injury to many people (the civilian population) and in some instances, even loss of life!
Without any doubt, the whole situation as it stands, is an ominous indicator of the growing level of human rights violation and impunity that goes with it; a situation precipitated by the apparent competing interests of citizens exercising their fundamental rights and the brutal police crackdown in executing their mandate of keeping law and order.
On the one hand, an attempt to exercise fundamental freedoms and rights enshrined in chapter 4 of the constitution and on the other hand, an attempt to keep law and orders as stated under article 212 of the constitution.
This situation is posing a great challenge to the operation of the constitution and calls for the need to interrogate with both interests with a view to finding the best formula for the co-existence of the two,- i.e. , the enjoyment of the fundamental rights of the people and the mandate of the police in its role of keeping law and order.
It is no longer just about civil and political rights of people who wish to demonstrate but the whole range of fundamental human rights being violated on the course of the crackdown on protest. People have been brutalized inhumanly, battered, manhandled and lives lost.
Innocent school children, parents, pregnant women and babies have also been affected as they are subjected to the obnoxious tear gas indiscriminately hurled into schools, medical facilities and even in poor people’s enclosed and narrow dwelling places. We are also concerned about Reports of media houses being directed to stop live coverage of this events also raise concern as this may be construed as an attempt to stifle information and prevent the exposition of the atrocities committed during the crackdown.
This is a contest that has caused untold suffering to many people either genuinely that they are exercising their rights under the constitution by bringing to the attention of the authorities and their fellow citizens matters which they consider to be public interest and or, those who use the event to further other ulterior motives such as those who take advantage of the situation to commit crimes and perpetuate lawlessness. Others including bystanders and or onlookers who chose to play a passive role in matter and or prefer to go about their daily businesses, are caught in the cross roads of this two competing interests have fallen victims of the backlash of this contest.
The Uganda Law Society is particularly concerned about the excessive use of force by the police and strongly condemns the following.
•The loss of life, injuries to persons and destruction of property;
•Use of live ammunition against unarmed civilians;
•Release of teargas into confined spaces including dwelling houses, schools, dispensaries and inside motor vehicles;
•Indiscriminate beatings of the member of public;
•Inhuman and degrading treatment of citizens in the brutal and violent arrests of various members of the public including senior and respectable opposition leaders.
These acts are in contravention of article 24 of the Constitution which provides that; “No person shall be subjected to any form of torture or cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment.”
In addition Uganda is a signatory to the International covenant on civil and Political Rights court in the (ICCPR) AND African Charter on Human and people’s Rights which guarantee civil liberties.
It should be recalled that in 2008 the constitutional court in the case of Muwanga Kivumbi Versus Attorney General (Constitutional Petition No P/05) the Constitutional court ruled that the Police no longer has the power to grant permission or prohibit the enjoyment of fundamental rights with regard to processions/ demonstrations and assemblies/rallies.
Much as the Constitutional Court went to great length to discuss all the relevant law on the matter including articles 20,21,29 and 43 and define the powers and or what is expected of the police in maintenance of law and order while dealing with situations of fundamental human rights,- leading to the annulment of police power under section 32(2) of the Police Act, but the Police seems never to have come to terms with this decision!
Even when rule of law demands that government organs respect court decisions, and indeed article 20 (2) obligates government agencies like the police to respect people’s fundamental rights, to date and in complete disregard of the law and the above court decision, institutions in the executive arm of government have declined to comply and instead of keeping law and order during such situations, the police continues in the practice of prohibiting peaceful demonstration and or on the enjoyment of the fundamental rights as guaranteed by the constitution.
The Uganda Law Society is deeply concerned about the increasing erosion of the independence of judiciary which is protected under article 128 of the constitution during this period some members of the public were arrested and some were taken to court. In this process we witnessed and are concerned about incidents such as:
•A magistrates with multiple jurisdictional areas;
•A magistrate abdicating the constitutional duty to hear an application for bail on the ground that she is too busy;
•Courts remanding members of the public brought before them before charges are read and plea taken;
Other incidents which in the recent past have caused doubt on the independence of the judiciary include:-
•The recent refusal by the chief magistrate in Mengo to comply with an order of the High Court,
•Police interference in the execution of the court orders to the extent of vetting judicial decisions!
Further, the Uganda Law Society is greatly concerned about the role of institutions in the justice, Law & order Sector contribution to the erosion of access to justice and public accountability. In contravention of their constitutional mandates.
Following our extraordinary emergency General Meeting held on 2nd May 2011 to address ourselves to the current situation and on the above concerns, we members of the legal fraternity resolved among other things as follows:-
1.To condemn in the strongest terms possible, brutal conduct of the state in quelling the protests, the shootings, loss of life, injury to persons and loss of property as well as the inhuman and degrading treatment of citizens.
2.To convene at the high court on today Wednesday the 4th 2011 and gather in a symbolic and collective expression of our displeasure, with the conduct of the police in its brutal response to the events of the last three weeks and to express our concerns regarding the apparent interference in the independence of the judiciary. That the above action would be replicated at all the high court grounds in all the circuits across the country.
3.That once we have convened at the high court, we would also avail ourselves the opportunity to present to our lordship a petition, calling upon to your good office to consider and address some of the issues especially those regarding the judiciary and, a request for your lordship’s indulgence to pass on the same to the powers that be on our behalf with a further request to facilitate a dialogue of all the stakeholders.
4.Uganda Law Society and its members shall provide pro bono legal services to the members of the public that have been arrested under the circumstances cited above.
5.To document all incidents of contravention of fundamental rights and freedoms of Citizens, and calls on Government to hold security officers and public officials who are responsible to account;
6.That after following presentation of this petition, we the members of the Uganda Law Society would for the rest of the week keep aaway from the Courts as we mourn the apparent death of Rule of Law and to give the authorities the opportunity to consider our requests as we also pursue other avenue of dialogue from the peaceful resolution of all the issues involved.
We hereby petition your Lordship the Chief Justice to urgently address the above mentioned grievernces to enhance access to justice, rule of law and respect for the Constitution in Uganda.
Bruce. K. Kyerere
Deepa Verma Jivram
4th May 2011, Kampala
RE: EAC: A Review and Way Forward
Great ambition, but just like lessons we learn from other blocs, we need a guided transition. We still have challenges with the Customs Union. Likely, we can never have one common tax collection point; customs systems within some member countries are different and we still have loads of tax competition. We should have first realised the benefits of the Customs Union before rushing into the Common Market. Studies show that the Common Market will heavily be constrained by infrastructure. Infrastructure is a long term intervention which Governments should focus on. Corruption however remains a key constraint to achieving the required levels of infrastructure unless joint planning is adopted.
RE: EAC: A Review and Way Forward
I want to thank East Africa for a job well done. Actually, there is direction in East Africa
RE: UN-LCD Summit: Will it Bear Fruit this Time?
This is incredible. I wish all African countries can borrow a leaf from Turkey. The business of relying on aid is sickening. African countries are rich in resources and we need to tap the potentials and become self-sustainable. Identification of viable projects should be done and aid released to fund these projects should be monitored and assessed for intended use.
RE: High Cost of Living
With the current rise in fuel prices, the cost of living is tremendously going up, more than ever before but our government seems not bothered at all. Promises are made in parliament by legislators but what we see is totally opposite from the same promises. The PM promised to cut down the fuel prices but nothing tangible is coming. Barely a year to general elections, things are looking this bad, the common mwanainchi will have no choice but invent their own ways of cushioning themselves during this hard economic times and arm themselves with their voting power. Get rid of all hindrances and political game players who have no heart for the people!