Monday, February 15, 2016

When a general stands trial

The general court-martial of Gen. David Sejusa of the Uganda People's Defence Force is sparking lively debate in that country. Consider this extract from a recent article in the aptly-named Independent:
After General Court Martial Chairman Maj. Gen Levy Karuhanga remanded Sejusa to Luzira Maximum Security Prison on Feb.2, the decorated moustached guerrilla war-hero likened his incarceration to what used to happen during the dark days when the dictator, Gen. Idi Amin, was president. 
“I am being held in the same dungeon Amin held me in 1976; the ‘Cell of No Return,” Sejusa read from what appeared to be notes he had scribbled on a paper. The court chairman cut him short and dismissed court. Sejusa’s lawyers have raised a preliminary objection to their client’s trial at General Court Martial basing on the fact that Sejusa has a case before the High Court to declare whether he is serving army officer or not. They argue that, their client cannot be subject to a trial where he is being accused of contravening the UPDF Code of Conduct when another court is yet to decide whether he is still a member of the UPDF. 
Sejusa’s defence team led by David Mushabe and comprising lawyers such as Kampala Lord Mayor Erias Lukwago, Ladislaus Rwakafuzi, Max Mutabingwa, Michael Mabikke, Yusuf Nsibambi and one of his sons, David Munungu, urged the former Coordinator of Intelligence services not to take plea, as this would make him subject to the jurisdiction of the court. 
However, the lawyers were overruled after the Judge Advocate, Lt Col George Kattinda, invoked Section 62 of the Trial Indictment Act which states that when an accused person refuses to take plea, a plea of not guilty shall be entered. 
The trial has sparked a slew of commentary.
Retired Supreme Court Justice George Kanyeihamba, known for his maverick legal views said of the matter: “The court martial is a subordinate court and is subject to the jurisdiction of the High Court. If the issue is pending before the High Court, then it takes priority. If the High Court determines he is not a member of the UPDF anymore, then the case at the Court martial must be dropped.”

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