President Museveni has said in some cases, security agencies are right to defy some orders issued by courts of law.
On Wednesday while speaking during the fifth annual Ben Kiwanuka Memorial day at the High Court grounds in Kampala, newly elected Uganda Law Society president, Bernard Oundo blasted government agencies for failure to respect courts of law.
“Courts in Uganda are clothed with constitutional powers to dispense justice to all persons. Justice is delivered and communicated through court orders which must be obeyed by all persons, institutions and authorities in the land at all times. However, some government institutions treat court orders as mere white papers with blank ink,” Oundo said.
“They(court orders) are accorded no respect and in some cases no attention at all. Especially, security organs like police, intelligence agencies and departments like State House Anti-Corruption Unit, Health Monitoring Units among others. Police and law enforcement authorities must listen to the voice of the law (court pronouncements) and respect them to the dot. In some cases, a court of law will issue orders maintaining the status quo, only for the police to go and alter it.”
Oundo said in some cases, a court of law will issue orders maintaining the status quo, only for the police to go and alter it, adding that respect for court orders is a cardinal tenet of rule of law, constitutionalism and Judicial Independence.
The Uganda Law Society president said that there is also a perception that some judges do not act independently and there are decisions are influenced from powers above.
“This perception is fueled by uninformed political statements by politicians and these need to be comprehensively and properly addressed. Examples include statements to the effect that cadre judges will be appointed to the Judiciary, statements alleging that certain judges have been bribed and so forth erode public confidence in the Judiciary especially when made by politicians. We believe that anyone aggrieved by judicial decision must appeal that decision using the appellate process and any disciplinary issues against judicial officers must be raised to the Judicial Service Commission,”Oundo said.
Speaking in response to the same, the president said he represents the constituency of freedom fighters but noted somethings done by the judiciary are not clear.
“I would want some amendment to this idea making independence to be a convergence of principles of justice. We should get time and discuss it deeply. Part of the problem they(security agencies) don’t implement court decisions is that they don’t agree(with them). There is need for convergence on what is justice in some of the cases between the courts and sometimes the population. For instance, we have got a problem of land issues especially in Buganda. You have got 5000 people in a parish and a magistrate says all of you must vacate because he has agreed with the landlord. Then the RDC says they must stay on the land. What is the historical position of the Ugandan reformers( NRM), freedom fighters and you the lawyers? If we just accept that court has decided that 5000 people must vacate, the RDC will come in and say they can’t leave. We say rubbish, they can’t go.If you say independence, it is abuse of power. You are making a big injustice to the population which can cause you a security problem,” Museveni said while also referring to the recent debate on bail to suspects in capital offences.
“Therefore it is correct judicially should be independent but in a convergent national system on how to handle their issues of historical distortions like for land, how about murder?”
Museveni said before talking of the independence of the judiciary, lawyers ought to look critically at things, noting that the judiciary cannot be entirely independent of the other arms of the government.
“This is the context I want you to remember. Independence from whom? You cannot be independent of the Ugandan people. So, I would like some amendment to this idea. It is correct that the Judiciary should be independent for sure, but it should be independent within a convergent national system. You could not have talked of judicial independence under Idi Amin.”
He explained that there is need for everyone to understand a point point of view from the side of freedom fighters(NRM).
We are the ones who removed the killers(Amin) of Ben Kiwanuka . Because we removed those killers, we are able to have all these and discuss how to move forward. Freedom fighters brought democracy. Between 1962 and 1980, there were no elections in Uganda. For 18 years, there were not even bad elections. We brought democracy and we also dismantled the sectarian system which had paralysed Uganda and Africa for all those centuries.”
“We repaired the economy. You can’t have money unless economy is repaired. We had to repair economy to allow enterprises come back to do business and create jobs, produce goods and services and pay taxes. We ensured peace without war so that people can build their lives and other organizational issues.”
Museveni reiterated his commitment to support the judiciary bring services closer to the people.