Members of Civil Societies under the Legal Aid Service Providers Network (LASPNET) have cautioned the leadership of the judiciary to act on the escalating disrespect of constitutional rights of marginalized Ugandans by lower bench judicial officers.
LASPNET is an umbrella organization of fifty-three (53) Non-Government Organizations and seven (7) Honorary members with aim of enhancing 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”.
They revealed that there is a deterioration of observance and protection of rights of accused persons by the law enforcement agencies including the Judiciary.
In the document seen by this website, on 6th June, the Network said that there is tangible evidence of discrepancies in the 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 the access to bail as a recourse for Access to Justice contrary to the guideline’s issued by the Hon. Principal Judge dated 17th December 2021.
“This is evidenced in the matter of Col. Dr Kizza Besigye who was charged with incitement of violence and when he appeared on 25th May 2022 before the Grade One Magistrate of Buganda Road, H/W Siena Owomugisha he was granted a cash bail of Thirty (30) million shillings which in the mind of any reasonable Judicial Officer should be harsh and exorbitant. Whereas the bail conditions were later revised by the High Court Judge Micheal Elubu from thirty (30) million to three (3) million shillings, we concur 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 the presumption of innocence,” reads the document.
LASPNET added that on 30th May 2022 the same thing happened when Soroti Women Member of Parliament Anne Adeke, Deputy Lord Mayor Doreen Nyanjura and 6 others appeared before the LDC court on charges of inciting violence and were remanded until 7th June 2022. On both occasions, they were denied their right to apply for bail on mere technicalities contrary to article 126 (2) (e) which says justice will be administered without due regard to technicalities.
They added that 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 the 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 or the presiding judicial officer if fairness and due process is to be followed by all judicial officers that took an oath of impartiality. Therefore, in consideration of the ongoing disregard for the guidelines and provision of the constitution by the presiding judicial officers especially from the lower bench, LASPNET would like to appeal to the Judiciary and Prosecution to safeguard and promote the procedural rights of suspects whenever they appear through the justice system,” read the statement.
LASPENT’s concerns on the escalating misconduct of lower judicial officials follow several concerns raised by lawyers and other opinion leaders who said the court was becoming a political tool used by the state.
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