KAMPALA – Chief Justice – Alphonse Owiny-Dollo declared – on Friday – that the trial of detained legislators – Allan Ssewanyana and Muhammad Ssegirinya will be handled in a speedy approach once it begins – soon.
Owiny-Dollo noted that the trial of the two legislators will commence this quarter – warning the state to desist from any attempts of playing games.
Owiny-Dollo made the remarks at the opening of the New Law Year during a function held at the High Court grounds in Kampala – which Premier – Robinah Nabbanja attended in place of President Yoweri Museveni.
“I want to announce that this very quarter – the trial will begin. They (Ssewanyana and Ssegirinya) will be subjected to trial,” he declared.
“Let me say this to the state: You are the one who brought these accused persons to court – you made allegations against them – the law says they are innocent until you have proved the matter in court,” he stated.
“When the trial begins – and it will begin soon, there will be no games. The state has brought them and it has the capacity to bring all its witnesses in court. I will ask the trial judge not to entertain any nonsense in this trial,” said Owiny-Dollo – in a message that seemed to be directed towards the Prime Minister, Nabbanja.
The Chief Justice said that the judiciary won’t tolerate any excuses – noting that the legislators would be tried under his watch. He added that the MPs were public figures and had to be tried within the law.
“If the state is not ready to have them tried – one of the rights the trial judge has – is to dismiss the case,” he emphasised. “Some people have tried to attack courts – even wrongfully to play politics in the Judiciary. The thing we learn from Jesus is to forgive them because they don’t know what they are talking about. The reason I am raising this now, I never responded to them because they didn’t know how the justice system provides. These accused have now been committed and they are now property of court.”
The Chief Justice took a swipe at the defence team – saying: “I also warn advocates for the MPs – there will be no adjournments or excuses. We don’t want to make anyone to make the Judiciary of Uganda complicit in denying any person justice. I may even go to Masaka to watch the proceeding.”
The trial of the MPs is expected to resume on February 13 at Masaka High Court.
The two legislators – Ssewanyana – the Makindye West representative and Ssegirinya of Kawempe North have been on remand since September 2021 on accusations of terrorism, murder, attempted murder, and aiding and abetting terrorism.
They were committed to the High Court for trial in March 2022 on the offence of murder alongside one Wilson Ssenyonga alias Tony Nyonga, for allegedly murdering one Joseph Bwanika.
Prime Minister, Nabbanja concentrated on delivering President Museveni’s written speech – avoiding the talk about Ssewanyana and Segirinya case.
The President’s speech emphasised the need for trust in the Judiciary – insisting it was a cornerstone for true justice.
“When justice is truly administered, it guarantees stability, security, and economic prosperity of society” read part of the President’s statement.
President Museveni has in the past openly critiqued the Judiciary over granting of bail to certain suspected criminals.
“I hope that the courts will now give meaningful bail terms to desiring cases,” Nabbanja quoted President Museveni as saying.
Attorney General, Kiryowa Kiwanuka noted at the function that he had taken a personal decision not to represent any government officials charged with torture.
“I have refused – and I have written. If a person is brought to me in a civil matter, for which there is clear evidence of torture, I have asked that individual to represent themselves,” revealed Kiryowa Kiwanuka.
“So if you illegally arrest, and a civil matter is brought against you – we will not represent you. So you better go back and tell your officers. We are not making a judgment but we are saying our view, you are wrong,” noted Kiwanuka – who appealed to the public to report any cases of illegal detention to his office.
“President -Uganda Law Society – I don’t want to sit at the next event. Where you tell me of illegal arrest when you have not come to me as the head of the Bar. This is not a matter to speak of lightly,” said Kiwanuka.
According to Human Rights Watch – security forces in Uganda have since 2018, unlawfully detained and tortured hundreds of people – including government critics and opposition supporters, often in unsanctioned detention centres.
The human rights group said some of those locations, somewhat ironically termed; ‘safe houses,’ are residential buildings converted by the authorities to be used for witness protection.