The newly elected President of Uganda Law Society Bernard Oundo has asked security organs to stop disrespecting court orders because it threatens the independence of the Judiciary.
While giving his speech at the 5th Memorial Lecture of Chief Justice Benedicto Kiwanuka on Thursday at the High Court building, Oundo said that Judicial Independence is an integral component of any progressive democracy and it involves both individual and institutional relationships.
He noted that the individual independence of a Judge in such matters as security of tenure and institutional independence of the court is key in the struggle to build democracy and rule of law in any country.
“Despite the significant achievements made in both the institutional and financial funding of the Judiciary, there are a number of threats which in our view need to be addressed as we progressively realise the independence of the Judiciary. Courts in Uganda are clothed with constitutional powers to dispense justice to all persons. Justice is delivered and communicated through Court orders, which all persons must obey, institutions and authorities in the land at all times. However, some government institutions treat Court orders as mere white papers with blank ink,” he said.
Oundo remarked that institutions especially security organs like police, Intelligence agencies and departments like State House Anti-Corruption Unit, and Health Monitoring Units among others accord no respect and in some cases no attention at all to words judicial orders.
“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. Respect for court orders is a cardinal tenet of the rule of law, constitutionalism and Judicial Independence. Article 128(3) of the Constitution enjoins the organs of government to support the effective delivery of justice,” he said.
Oundo added that because of disrespect of the judiciary by some government institutions, there is a perception that some judges do not act independently and that decisions are influenced by the 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.”
He also emphasized that security of a judicial officer is one of the key tenets of an independent Judiciary because it is essential for providing stability in the functioning of the courts and prevents any perception of a lack of independence in the Judiciary.
“We should strongly reconsider appointing Judges in an Acting Capacity and I appreciate that this is a court matter and I will say nothing more except to reemphasize that if Judges do not have the security of tenure, the independence of the Judiciary is greatly undermined.”
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