Friday, November 7, 2014

Uganda's military courts

Dr. Ronald Naluwairo
Following up on his 2012 article, Dr. Ronald Naluwairo has written an impressive article on The Trial of Civilians in Uganda's Military Courts: Interrogating the Reasons and Constitutionality, 19 E. Afr. J. Peace & Hum. Rgts. 383 (2013). He concludes:
          In international human rights law, the trial of civilians by military courts should be exceptional. They should be limited to cases where the state can show that resorting to the military courts is necessary and justified by objective and serious reasons, and where with regard to the specific class of individuals and offences at issue, the civil courts cannot undertake such trials. Inconsistent with this position, in abstracto, Uganda's military law gives the country's military courts very wide jurisdiction over many categories of civilians. There are no compelling reasons for giving Uganda's military courts the wide jurisdiction they have over civilians. Moreover, this jurisdiction is constitutionally questionable.
          The trial of civilians by Uganda's military courts also raises several human rights issues as highlighted in the preceding section. Needless to point out, some of these human rights issues like the independence and impartiality of the military courts also arise in the context where these courts try military personnel. Regrettably, there is hardly any serious on-going debate among Ugandans about the question of the jurisdiction of military courts over civilians. This is notwithstanding the very bad history of such jurisdiction in the past regimes and the African Commission's explicit recommendation that Uganda should "introduce legal measures that prohibit the trial of civilians by military courts." Hopefully, this article will trigger this critically needed debate not only among academics but also Members of Parliament, policy makers and the wider civil society.

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