Uganda: Violation of Judiciary Independence

Re: Violation of Judiciary Independence

To: Excellency President Museveni and Minister Kiddu

From: Cara E.I. Gibbons, B.A. (Hon), LL.B.

Date: 2007-03-12

Lawyers’ Rights Watch Canada (“LRWC”) is a committee of Canadian lawyers and law professors who campaign internationally for advocacy rights, advocates in danger and rule of law issues.

LRWC has received information about the events at the High Court of the Republic of Uganda of March 1, 2007, where the Court was raided by heavily armed police officers and prison guards. Six accused were beaten and rearrested and lawyer Kiyemba Mutale was beaten unconscious. LRWC received this news with concern, particularly in light of similar events at the Court on November 16, 2005 and the decision of the Constitutional Court in Uganda Law Society v. Attorney General of the Republic of Uganda, Constitutional Petition No. 18 of 2005, where a majority of the Court found that the events violated articles 23(1)(6) 128 (1)(2)(3) of the Constitution of the Republic of Uganda.

President Museveni’s statements expressing the government’s regret for the most recent raid and indicating that an investigation into the events is being undertaken are welcomed. However, LRWC remains concerned that the President has disregarded judicial authority by criticizing the Court for releasing the suspects on bail in the first place. This is despite the fact that the right to bail is enshrined in Uganda’s constitution. The President’s comments, particularly when coupled with the repeated raids of the High Court by armed government agents, are indicative of a troubling pattern demonstrating a lack of regard for the independence of the judiciary.

LRWC also notes that in order to protect the right to a fair trial guaranteed by article 14 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, it is essential that lawyers be permitted to exercise their professional duties without fear of interference from state agents. Consequently, the beating of Mr. Mutale is condemned.

LRWC calls on the Government of Uganda to take swift and effective action to investigate the latest raid of the courts and to ensure that such actions are not repeated. LRWC respectfully requests your early response by mail, e-mail or fax to advise of your actions on the above mentioned matters. Please be advised that we will continue to monitor the situation. Thank you for your attention to our concerns.