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UGANDA LAW SOCIETY

PETITION

BY UGANDA LAW SOCIETY TO THE HONOURABLE CHIEF JUSTICE

COGNISANT of the fact that for the past years and in particular, following the
promulgation of the 1995 Constitution Uganda has been walking along the path
to Rule of Law, Constitutionalism and Democratic governance.

WHEREAS Chapter Four of the Constitution guarantees the enjoyment of


fundamental rights and freedoms as inherent and not granted by the state and
obligates all organs and .agencies of government to respect and uphold these
rights and freedoms;
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AND REGOGNISING that Article 212 in the same Constitution mandates the
Police to keep law and order;- a situotion that may sometimes call for the
limitation in the enjoyment of these rights and freedoms AND in apparent
recognition of the need for Police to be able to execute this mandate and, in
order for the people not to prejudice the rights and freedoms of others, the
framers of our constitution also made provision for Article 43 which renders the
rights and freedom prescribed by the Constitution as not being absolute by
providing for qualified instances where these rights may at times be subjected to
limitations in public interest. Even then, the same article provides that no such
limitation should go beyond what is acceptable and demonstrably justifiable in
a free and democratic society or what is provided under the constitution!

However, along this otherwise hopeful highway in the constitutional


development of our country, there have been a string of events which have
since sent clear signals that, as a country we have since lost the direction the set
by the 1995 Constitution as our compass as we strive to move along the path of
Constitutionalism and Rule of law.
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We are concerned about the events of the last three wee'ks and current human
rights situation obtaining in the country and the role of the Police Force (and
ihdeed the Other security organs including the military) in keepino law and
order, We are especially appalled by the e~ents of the recent past where Police
has been caught in the middle of circumstances that have led to wide-spread
condemnation on their high handed responses to situations causing injury to
many people (the civilian population) and in some instances, even loss of lifel
Without any doubt, the whole situation as it stands, is an ominous indicator of
the growing level of human rights violations and the impunity that goes with it; ­
a situation precipitated by the apparent competing interests of citizens
exercising their fundamental rights and the brutal police crackdown In
executing their mandate of keeping law and order.

On the one hand, an attempt to exercise fundamental freedoms and rights


enshrined in chapter 4 of the Constitution and on the other hand, an attempt to
kee p law and order as stated under article 212 of the Constitution.

This situation is posing a great challenge to the operation of the Constitution and
calls for the need to interrogate both interests with a view to finding the best
formula for the co-existence of the two, - i.e.. the enjoyme.n.t .of fundamental
rights of the people and the mandate of the Police in its role of keeping law and
order.

It is no longer just about civil and political rights of people who wish to
demonstrate but the whole range of fundamental human rights being violated
in the course of the crackdown on protests. People have been brutalized,
inhumanly battered and manhandled and lives lost.

Innocent school children , patients, pregnant women and babies have also
been affected as they are being subjected to the obnoxious tear gas (sic!)
indiscriminately hurled into schools, medical facilities and even in poor people's
enclosed and narrow dwelling places. We are also concerned about Reports of
media houses being directed to stop live coverage of these events also raise
concern as this may be construed as. an attempt to stifle information and
prevent the exposition of the atrocities committed during the crackdown.

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This is ' a contest that has caused untold suffering to many people either
genuinely believing that they are exercising their rights under the constitution by
bringing to the attention of the authorities and their fellow citizens matters which
they consider to be of public interest and or.Those who use the event to further
other ulterior motives such as those who take advantage of the situation to
commit crimes and perpetuate lawlessness. Others, including bystanders and or
onlookers who choose to playa passive role in matter and or prefer to go about
their daily businesses, are caught in the cross roads of these two competing
interests have fallen victim of the backlash of this contest.

The Uganda Law Society is particularly concerned about the excessive use of
force by the police and strongly condemns the following;

e The loss of life, injuries to persons and destruction of property;

e Use of live ammunition against unarmed civilians;

G Release of teargas into confined spaces including dwelling houses,


school, dispensaries and inside motor vehicles;

CI lndiscriminote beatings of the members of the public;

~ In inhuman and degrading treatment of citizens in the brutal and violent


arrests of various members of the public including senior and respectable
opposition leaders;

These acts are in contravention of Article 24 of the Constitution which provides


that; "No person shall be subjected to any form of torture or cruel, inhuman or
degrading treatment or punishment".

In addition Uganda is a signatory to the International Covenant on Civil and


Political Rights (ICCPR) and African Charter on Human and People's Rights
which guarantee civil liberties.

It should be recalled that in 2008 the Constitutional court in the case of


Muwanga Kivumbi versus Attorney General (Constitutional Petition No 9/05) the
Constitutional Court ruled that the Police no longer has the power to grant
permission or prohibit the enjoyment of fundamental rights with regard to
processions/demonstrations and assemblies/rallies.

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Much as the Constitutional Court went to great length to discuss all the relevant
law on the matter including Articles 20, 21 , 29 and 43 and define the powers
and or what is expected of the Police in maintenance of law and order while
dealing with situations of fundamental human rights, - leading to the annulment
of Police powers under Section 32(2) of the Police Act, but the Police seems
never to have come to terms with this decision!

Even when Rule of Law demands that government organs respect court
decisions, and indeed Article 20 (2) obligates government agencies like the
Police to respect peoples fundamental rights, to-date and in complete
disregard of the law and the above Court decision, institutions in the executive
arm of government have declined to comply and instead of keeping Iow and
order during such situations, the police continues in the practice of prohibiting
peaceful demonstrations and or on the enjoyment of fundamental rights as
guaranteed by the constitution.

The Uganda Law Society is deeply concerned about the increasing erosion of
independence of the Judiciary which is protected under Article '128 of the
Constitution During this period some members of the public were arrested and
some were taken to court, In this process we witnessed end a~~ concerned
about incidents such as:

e A Magistrates with multiple jurisdictional areas;

• A Magistrate abdicating the Constitutional duty to hear an application for


bail on the ground that she is too busy;

• Courts remanding members of the public brought before them before


charges are read and plea taken;

Other incidents which in the recent past have cast doubt on the independence
of the judiciary include:-

• The recent refusal by a Chief Magistrate in Mengo to comply with an


order of the High Court,

• Police interference in execution of court orders to the extent of vetting


judicial decisions!

Further, the Uganda Law Society is greatly concerned about the role of
institutions in the Justice, Law & Order Sector contribution to the erosion of
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access to justice and public accountability, in contravention of their


Constitutional mandates.

Following our Extraordinary emergency General Meeting held on 2nd May 2011
to address ourselves to the current situotion and on the above concerns, we
members of the legal fraternity resolved among other things as follows: -

1. To condemn in the strongest terms possible, brutal conduct of the state in


quelling the protests .the shootings, loss of life, injury to persons and loss of
property as well as the inhuman and degrading treatment of citizens

2. To convene at the High Court on today Wednesday the 4th 2011 and
gather in a symbolic and collective expression of our displeosure.with the
conduct of the Police in its brutal response to the events of the last three
weeks and to express our concerns regarding the apparent interference
in the independence of the judiciary. That the above action would be
replicated at all the High Court grounds in all the circuits across the
country.

3. That once we have convened at the High Court. we would also avail
ourselves the _o~f?ort~JIlity to present to your Lordship a Petition. calling
upon your good office to consider and address some of the issues
especially those regarding the Judiciary and, a request for your Lordship's
indulgence to pass on the same to the powers that be on our behalf with
a further request to facilitate a dialogue of all the stakeholders.

4. Uganda Law Society and its members shall provide pro bono legal
services to the members of the public that have been arrested under the
circumstances cited above;

5. To document all incidents of contravention of fundamental rights and


freedoms of citizens, and calls on Government to hold security officers
and public officials who are responsible to account;

6. That after following presentation of this Petition, we the the members of


the Uganda Law Society would for the rest of the week keep away from
the Courts as we mourn the apparent death of Rule of Law and to give
the authorities the opportunity to consider our requests as we also pursue
other avenues of dialoguef fro the peaceful resolution of all the issues
involved.
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We hereby petition Your Lordship the Chief Justice to "urg e ntly address the
above mentioned grievances to enhance access to justice, rule of law and
respect for the Constitution in Uganda.

Signed by

Bruce. K.
~ ~
Deepa Verma Jivram
,
CL.:..,.
President Hon. Secretary l--i ) S;-/l J

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