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Retired judge, human rights activists sue President Museveni over bail

Prof George Kanyeihamba

Prof George Kanyeihamba

Retired Supreme court judge George Kanyeihamba together with five human rights activists has sued the President of Uganda Yoweri Museveni for suggesting alteration of the law regarding bail applications and release of suspects on police bond.

The other petitioners are; John Solomon Nabuyanda, a human rights activist and student of Law at Makerere University, Edrine Prince Bbosa a students leader and Guild Representative Councilor of School of Law at Makerere University, Alex Wavamunno an activist and student of Law at Makerere, Williams Ronald Asiimwe, student of Law at Bishop Stuart University Mbarara and President of Uganda Law Society Students Association and lawyer Simon Ssenyonga.

Museveni is sued jointly with his ruling National Resistance Movement (NRM) party and the attorney general of Uganda who is accused of endorsing amendments on bail and recommending for alteration of section 25 of the Police Act which they say threatens the right to police bond.

The constitutional petition stems from remarks made by Museveni on September 27, 2021, at the Judiciary headquarters in regard to the issuance of bail to suspects on criminal matters.

Museveni told the judges who were attending the 4th Benedicto Kiwanuka Memorial Lecture that it is a provocation to grant bail to capital offenders and giving suspects bail is not a right. Subsequently, Museveni added that he was to use political and legal means to see that bail for capital offenders is scrapped off. 

Now, the petitioners say they filed the petition in public interest, saying Museveni's remarks are unconstitutional and contravene several articles of the constitution and international treaties to which Uganda is a signatory.

The group took issues with Museveni's post on Twitter that stated that the law providing for bail application be altered, which to them is unconstitutional. They further state that Museveni's action of summoning the NRM MPs to discuss the alteration of the right to bail application is a threat to the said right and contravenes the constitution.

According to them, inflexible actions and attitude of the cabinet to endorse the memorandum of the proposed recommendation to alter the laws regarding bail application and police bond is unconstitutional and a threat to right for applying for bail.

To support his case, Kanyeihamba the lead petitioner who came to court physically while being pushed in a wheelchair, attached a number of articles written by various media houses in relation to Museveni’s statements on bail and his speech at the recently concluded lecture to remember the former chief justice Benedicto Kiwanuka.

The retired judge maintains that the right to bail application is a fundamental human right that should not be tampered with although the attorney general and government have the right to limit the fundamental rights and freedoms.

Kanyeihamba through his lawyers of Centre for Constitutional Governance states that the alteration of the right to apply for bail can only be done in line with the constitution and international laws.

"My lawyers chickened out, even last night I was calling them, their phones are off or they don’t answer - all the lawyers have gone in hiding. When my fellow petitioners and I went to the chambers in Kampala to have sworn affidavits, eight of them refused to do so. They said the case for defending the right to apply for bail is political. I don’t see anything political about it. This is a right guaranteed in the constitution, and as it has always been said; if people are given rights if they are frightened from defending them, those rights are useless," said Kanyeihamba. 

The petitioners want Constitutional court to issue an order prohibiting Museveni, the attorney general, NRM party and any other person from furthering any of such actions that threaten the right to bail application and police bond. 

This is not the first petition to challenge the proposed reforms on bail. On October 20, lawyer Male Mabirizi petitioned the High court seeking to quash a memo reportedly written by AG Kiryowa Kiwanuka to change the law, saying that a person should be charged in courts within 48 hours to only count 48 hours of working days of courts.

Mabirizi has since also filed another constitutional petition also related to the same.

© 2016 Observer Media Ltd