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Lawyer Ssemakadde snubs police summons, tells them to stop disturbing his peace

Rebel lawyer Isaac Ssemakadde

Rebel lawyer Isaac Ssemakadde

Controversial city lawyer Isaac Ssemakadde has snubbed police summons to appear at Kampala Central police station and instead asked police to attend court next if they want to hear from him.

On February 23, 2024, CID commander for Kampala metropolitan police Bob Kagarura wrote to Ssemakadde inviting him to police for case conferencing and fact-finding meeting in a criminal libel case vide CID Headquarters General Inquiries File 312/2023.   

Kagarura explained that they are mandated under Section 27 of the Police Act to invite/summon/require the attendance of any person whom they have reasons to believe has relevant/valuable information and exhibits documents to assist in any of their investigations. He directed Ssemakadde to report to CPS on February 26, 2024, for a meeting regarding the criminal libel and offences prejudicial to judicial proceedings.       

However, yesterday Ssemakadde instead sent his lawyers from GEM Advocates who informed the officers that their client already reported to the police CID headquarters on February 28, 2022, under General File 136/2022 for the same purpose as yesterday's summons. The lawyers stated that the allegations at issue were on the same day endorsed in the charge and summons issued by the Buganda Road Chief Magistrate's court under criminal case number 257 of 2022.  

The said case was reported by lawyer Robert Rutaro Muhairwe by way of private prosecution requiring Ssemakadde’s response and attendance before the presiding magistrate Marion Mangeni in March 2022. In his case before the Standards, Utilities and Wildlife Division, which sits at Buganda Road court, Rutaro accused Ssemakadde of allegedly using his Twitter (X) handle to attack the civil division, High court judge Musa Ssekaana. 

He argued that the obscene messages were meant to embarrass the judge and lower his self-esteem in front of right-thinking members of society. Rutaro asked the court to summon Ssemakadde to answer for criminal libel, offences prejudicial to judicial proceedings, and offensive communication. However, in March 2022, the director of public prosecutions (DPP) decided to take over the matter, drawing protests from Ssemakadde. He argued that the takeover would among others amount to double jeopardy. 

He also argued that the Buganda Road court had no jurisdiction to try him over the offences. Accordingly, Ssemadde’s lawyers also filed an application challenging the legality of the pending charges against him and sought dismissal, a matter that is still pending before the court. 

While at the police on Monday, Ssemakadde’s lawyers informed detectives that the DPP then took over the case and informed the court that they intended to take over the private prosecution, which was eventually done on July 31, 2023. 

"Since then, our client has been dutifully attending court presided over by her worship Nambozo Sanula who took over from her worship Marion Mangeni, seeking a hearing date for his formal application to have the charges dismissed," reads a letter written by Ssemakadde's lawyers to police.  

According to the letter, the said case was last mentioned on February 22, 2024, and adjourned to March 2024 for further management. 

"In this context, your police summons for case conferencing and fact-finding not only constitute an extra judicial inquiry in breach of the subjudice rule but also violate our client's Article 28(3) (a) rights as interpreted by the Constitutional court in Olara Otunnu Versus Attorney General number 12/2010 page 24 to 26, a decision which expressly limited police power under Section 27A of the Police Act," further reads the letter. 

It adds that "for the foregoing reasons, our client is under no duty to speak to you regarding your dubious and endless investigations. Attend court on March 25, 2024".

In a press statement issued by AGORA, a digital public square fostering activism, public accountability, human rights, and social justice, the summons to Ssemakadde are grossly irregular and a pretext for false imprisonment. AGORa indicates that Ssemakadde also known as 'legal rebel' is concerned about three curiously connected developments that appear to be part of a coordinated campaign of judicial harassment against him and seeks support.    

First, the statement shows that the chief justice has thrice this month alone been quoted in the media seemingly threatening retaliation against lawyers who talk ill of judges in public. 

"Legal rebel is an outspoken critic of judicial malpractice without fear or favour and recently led a boycott of the Judiciary's New Law Year event. In February 2022, Uganda judicial officers, and the 23rd Annual Judges Conference unceremoniously fingered our comrade for cyber harassment of judges and tasked the judiciary's top management to take action against him. They have since refused our comrade's request for the record," adds the statement.   

AGORA further indicates that Ssemakadde is the lead counsel in the case of Legal Brains Trust Versus the Attorney General of Uganda at the Regional Court in Arusha which is set for hearing on March 1, 2024. The said case seeks to impeach justice Jane Frances Abodo from the office of the director of public prosecutions. 

The lawyers argue that the police summons is a breach of procedural and substantive fairness guaranteed for an accused person and constitutes judicial harassment of their comrade in the totality of the circumstances, also amounts to police interference in judicial proceedings as well as a substantive breach which they say charges are colonial and unconstitutional.

According to them, Ssemakadde as an accused enjoys the immutable right not to be again disturbed to speak to the police when he has a case pending in court. The statement signed by Godwin Toko calls upon the DPP staff to decolonize the system and drop what they describe as the obnoxious charges and free court of the unnecessary backlog. 

Records before the court indicate that on February 21, 2024, Ssemakadde through GEM Advocates wrote to the chief magistrate of standards, utilities and wildlife division demanding the ruling in the case in which they are contesting the jurisdiction of that court to try their client on the charges in issue. The records show they asked for the chief magistrate's intervention such that the court first determines the issues of jurisdiction before allowing the DPP to take over the case. 

But they were overlooked, an issue they say is illegal, improper, incorrect, and thus invalid. In 2018, Ssemakadde the founder of Legal Brains Trust a Kampala democracy and human Rights Watchdog was awarded by his colleagues under their umbrella the Uganda Law Society as the outstanding Public Interest Lawyer.   

   

Comments

+2 #1 A K Mukasa 2024-02-27 21:46
The executive is corrupt, the legislature is corrupt, the judiciary is corrupt, the men of cloth are corrupt, so who is left to protect Ugandans?

The few that decide to stick their necks out to highlight the rot and seek accountability, are harassed by both the executive and judiciary.

However, by staying silent in face of the abuse of power by the executive and judiciary, the legislature and the men of cloth are complicit in the abuse because silence gives consent.

We indeed live in strange times where we celebrate clergies like Bishop Luwum but not live by his ideals.
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+1 #2 wadada rogers 2024-02-27 22:09
I agree with Counsel Semakadde, the police need to be guided, bullying their would be witnesses around is obscene and unethical
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+2 #3 Remase 2024-02-27 22:22
There you have it. Chief of Organised Criminals, Owiny Dollo's finger prints are all over this bogus charges which are designed to silence Advocate Semaksdde

M7 and his proxies are determined to ruin our country at all costs!
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