Justice and Constitutional Affairs Minister, Gen Kahinda Otafiire vows to stamp down violent abduction and incarceration of judicial officers
Uganda’s Judiciary and the Legislature have raised concerns about the ongoing attack on judicial officers saying the violent abduction of officers that existed 47 years ago seem to have returned in Uganda.
47 years back, Uganda’s first Chief Justice, Benedicto Kiwanuka was kidnapped from his chambers at the High Court in Kampala on 21, Sept 1972 to an unknown location by Iddi Amin Dada’s soldiers, former Uganda’s dictator.
Until today the whereabouts of his remains are still unknown.
However, those in the helm of Judiciary today, during the second Benedicto Kiwanuka memorial day held at High Court in Kampala, issued a warning to the ruling NRM Government asking them to uphold the independence of the judiciary.
According to Judiciary, they want more justification why they should continue attending this kind of events when one of them is under arrested for being an advocate.
In their further remarks, they said being an advocate is not being criminal, but rather a profession, of which they have a right to practice.
They started with a procession around the High Court and later led to the streets as a sign of their abduction.
Chief Justice Bart Katureebe, in his memorial speech said that they have realised that Uganda has not moved beyond its violent past.
Because just like the late Kiwanuka, many other people have been arrested and killed with no one being prosecuted.
He, however, asked the Justice and Constitutional Affairs Minister, Gen Kahinda Otafiire to address the issue of arresting suspects at court’s grounds after their bail release.
“If the law, the Constitution has allowed someone to have a right to apply for bail, the courts must listen to that person and decide the matter. It’s not a matter of choice, it’s not a matter of doing a favour, we do hope that the other branches of government will appreciate this very quickly,” Bart Katureebe said.
Katureebe also urged Ugandans to not only commemorate the annual Benedicto Kiwanuka’s memorial lecture but also remember other Ugandans and foreigners who died in this manner because of their values and beliefs.
In the same way, he asked judges to be impartial in administering justice to Ugandans in the protection of their lives.
Their remarks stem from the recent re-arrest of persons freed by court, alleged abduction by State Operatives, torture and illegal detentions
Now following this Judicial statement against their Profession, Justice and Constitutional Affairs Minister, Kahinda Otafiire vowed before the president to correct the mess.
He says lawyers have been arrested because some servants don’t understand the law.
“It’s unfortunate! Your Excellence, some people in service don’t understand and differentiate these laws. So that’s why you find unfortunate incidents like incarceration of an advocate who is doing his or her work. My excellence now that is good that it has been brought to my attention, I will work with other heads of departments, security officers to ensure that we address that problem, I promise you,” Otafiire said.
Also, the Speaker of Parliament Rebecca Alitwala Kadaga in her remarks said that parliament has moved a step in curbing down torture activities carried out by State Operatives on civilians.
She says Nalufenya which had turned into a torture chamber was closed because of parliament’s hard work.
“As a result of the oversight work of Parliament, the safe house of Nalufenya was closed. I also want to assure you that we have demonstrated parliamentary courage although the human rights committee of parliament was not allowed to enter the safe houses. But they visited every one of them, to show the country that we know what’s there, that we need to do something about it,” Kadaga said.
Former Kenyan Chief Justice, Dr Willy Mutunga in remarks praised Kiwanka for being a resilient judicial officer, who rejected Iddi Amin’s pressures against his conscience in pursuit for rule of law and justice to Ugandans.
He adds that politics and rule of law cannot part.
However, he says that Africa is at a crossroads and appealed to the judiciary not to accept pressures from the regime, that will see fall of justice Ugandan ought to receive.