Ms. Sylvia Namubiru Mukasa, Executive Director LASPNET speaking to the press (PHOTO/Courtesy).
KAMPALA – The Legal Aid Service Providers Network (LASPNET) has condemned the deteriorating observance and protection of rights of accused persons by the law enforcement agencies including the Judiciary.
LASPNET is an umbrellaorganization of fifty three (53) Non-Government Organizations and seven (7) Honorary members with a mandate to provide a platform for effective networking and collaboration to enhance legal aid service delivery and access to justice for the most vulnerable and marginalized people, in a bid to ensure a “free and just society”
This followed the harsh bail condition of UGX.30 million by the Grade OneMagistrate of Buganda Road, H/W Siena Owomugisha to Col. Dr. Kizza Besigye on charges of inciting violence on 25th May 2022.
Whereas the bail conditions were on Monday, May 6th revised by the HighCourt Judge Micheal Elubu to three (3) million shillings, LASPNET says it concurs with his ruling that the earlier set bail conditions for Dr. Besigye were harsh, selective, excessive and interfered with the accused right to bail under Article 23 (6) of the 1995 Constitution of Uganda which is hinged on presumption of innocence.
The Network says has continued to witness discrepancies in grant of bail by a section of Judicial officers at Buganda Road and Law Development Center courts through attaching harsh and selective bail conditions to accused persons hence frustrating theaccess to bail as a recourse for Access to Justice contrary to the guideline’s issued by the Principal Judge dated 17th December 2021.
Similarly, on 30th May 2022, Member of Parliament Anne Adeke, Deputy Lord Mayor Doreen Nyanjura and 6 others appeared before the LDC court on charges of inciting violence and remanded until 7th June 2022. On both occasions they were deniedtheir right to apply for bail on mere technicalities, which LASPNET says is contrary to article 126 (2) (e) which says justice will be administered without due regard to technicalities.
“The right to apply for bail is a fundamental right guaranteed by Article 23 (6) of the 1995 Constitution of the Republic of Uganda. The basis of which is enshrined under Article 28 of the Constitution which provides that an accused person is to be presumed innocent until he/she is proved or he/she pleads guilty. The same provision states that an accused is entitled to a fair and speedy trial before an independent and impartial court or tribunal established by law. This therefore goes without saying that Bail is a safeguard to procedural rights of all suspects who are considered innocent until proven guilty. It should not be used as a form of punishment or informed by biases of prosecution nor the presiding judicial officer, if fairness and due process is to be followed by all judicial officers that took an on oath of impartiality.”
In consideration of the ongoing disregard to the guidelines and provision of the constitution by the presiding judicial officers especially from the lower bench, LASPNET appealed to the Judiciary, Police and Prosecution to safeguard andpromote procedural rights of suspects whenever they appear through the justicesystem.
Specifically, LASPNET makes the following Call and Recommendations;
The Judiciary(i) To strongly uphold judicial independence as they administer justice in accordance to aspirations of the people of Uganda and in accordance to thejudicial mandate as enshrined in Article 128(1).
(ii) To streamline management of bail application and issue orders in accordance tothe given bail guidelines as well as the intention of Article 23 of the Constitutionand minimize the discrepancies and frustration that the accused persons arecurrently experiencing.
(iii)The management of the Judiciary to prevail over the judicial officers who misuse their discretion to issue harsh bail conditions with the intent of failing justice to the accused persons.
(iv) To commit to international obligations ratified (signed) by Government ofUganda under international treaties that preserve and respect the rights of accused persons such as the International Convention of Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR).
(v) To expedite the due processes and order for immediate release of Activists agitating for price increase and remain incarcerated to date due to unreasonablehandling of the matter by the presiding judicial officer.
Office of the Director of Public Prosecution
(i) The prosecution to respect the right to bail and desist from objecting to bail even when offences are bailable and suspects have produced requirement prerequisite to grant of bail.
(ii) To provide professional legal opinion to investigating officers to avoid bringing flimsy cases to court and suspects to unreasonable incarceration.
Uganda Police Force
(i) To respect the right to liberty of accused person and avoid arresting them on flimsy charges.
(ii) Arrest suspects with dignity and those that are reasonably suspected to have committed offence.
(iii) Respect citizens’ rights to freedom of expression and association, and in case of peaceful demonstration to provide security instead of arresting.