Two Ugandans have dragged government to the Constitutional Court challenging the law on preventive arrest as always used by the Police Force.
Under Section 24 of the Police Act, a police officer may, without a court order and without a warrant, arrest a person if he or she has reasonable cause to suspect that the person has committed or is about to commit an arrestable offence.
In a petition before the Constitutional Court, Anne Tendo and Alex Martin Musiime say that whereas section 24(1) of the Police Act allows a police officer to arrest and detain any person as a preventive action, the same provision doesn’t have a specific duration for the detention of a person arrested and detained under the same provision.
“Accordingly, section 24(2) of the Police Act is amenable to abuse through arbitrary detention for an unspecified and extended period of time without trial in violation of Articles 23(1) and (4) and 28(1) of the Constitution of the Republic of Uganda,” the two Ugandan say.
The duo says that whereas sections 24,26 and 27 of the Criminal Procedure Code Act empower any police officer to interpose or arrest any person without a warrant, the same laws don’t provide a specific duration for the arrest and detention effected under the same law.
The group, therefore, argues that this has led to abuse of rights through arbitrary detention for unspecified and extended periods of time without trial which violates Articles 23(1) ,(4) and 28(1) of the Constitution which grant suspects under detention a right to be brought before court not later than 48 hours from the time of their arrest and stipulate that no person shall be convicted of a criminal offence unless the offence is defined and the penalty for it prescribed by law.
“Under the impugned sections, there are no specific guidelines or procedural safeguards on preventive detention and the duration of such detention yet Uganda ratified the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights and the African Charter on Human and People’s Rights that guarantee the right to personal liberty under articles 9(1) and 6 respectively,” the duo says.
The two Ugandans want the Constitutional Court to declare that section 24(2) of the Police Act contravenes Articles 2,20(1), 23(1) (4), 28(1) and 44( c) of the Constitution.
“Your petitioners humbly pray that this honourable court be pleased to declare that section 24 of the Police Act gives police officers imprecise, wide, ambiguous and archaic discretionary powers of indefinite preventive detention without a trial,” the duo says.
They also want court to declare that sections 24,26 and 27 of the Criminal Procedure Code Act contravene Articles 2, 20(2), 23(1), (4), 28(1) and 44( c) of the Constitution of Uganda but also want a declaration that the failure by the Attorney General to put in place procedural safeguards against the abuse of preventive detention contravenes the Constitution.
“The petitioners humbly pray that this honourable court can be pleased to issue an order directing the respondent (Attorney General) to enact regulations and guidelines prescribing the procedure and duration of preventive detention.”
The duo also wants court to direct the Attorney General to report the same within six months from the date of judgment to update on the steps taken to implement the said regulations and guidelines.
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