Saturday, October 29, 2016

Uganda MP speaks out

The following is from this Observer interview with Michael Kabaziguruka, a Ugandan MP who is facing trial in a court-martial:
Why are you opposed to being tried in the General Court Martial? 
Have I ever applied to be part of the military? Have I ever been part of the military and do I wish to be? I don't think that, I being a civilian, I should be tried in the general court martial. There are other competent courts that could handle that kind of offence I'm charged with. 
I don't know; is the evidence only sufficient for the general court martial? Why are they dying to have me arraigned in the court martial? If they have evidence like they say, why don't they present it in a competent court? The court martial is a kangaroo court where I don't expect to get a free and fair trial. None of the people who sit on that panel is even fit to be a magistrate of any grade. 
So, how can they consider getting involved in a case whose maximum penalty is death? We know the kind of training judges get but those in the army court have not got any training that would put them in a position to interpret the law.
You can appeal the judgment of the military court martial if you are not satisfied. 
Why should I subject myself to an illegal entity, then appeal later? That would be madness.
Will you appear before the General Court Martial if you lose your appeal against being tried there? 
I will not accept to be tried by the General Court Martial. Because I know it is partial. It is under the direct command of [President Yoweri] Museveni. I know I can't lose at both the appellate courts. The judiciary is not so bad although, yes, some have sold out. They have already swum with the fish and they smell like fish. 
But I know there are still competent judges out there and they will do what is right. What is right is that I should not be tried in the general court martial. 
What impact are these cases having on the people you represent in Nakawa? 
My people are very understanding. They know that I'm fighting for their rights because it might be me today but tomorrow it could be you. You could be arraigned in the Court Martial for no reason. I will continue fighting to ensure that what has happened to me does not happen to any other person. 
The law needs to be streamlined so that we know whether the court martial is competent, let alone a court. We need to understand the legal framework in which it was established because we have looked at the constitution and clearly we have failed to establish why parliament established a court martial. It should have been a tribunal like what the police have. 
We think that the UPDF should just have an internal tribunal to try members of the UPDF and for limited offenses. But for cases that carry death as the maximum sentence, they cannot be tried by that tribunal. So many militaries across the world have got tribunals but they don't behave like ours here. 
When I go back to parliament, I will challenge the UPDF Act that establishes the court martial. It is an absurdity that such provisions were put to grant the military court such jurisdiction. 
I'm also going to appeal the ruling of Justice Patricia Basaza, which was not very carefully thought out. I think the court of appeal will be more sober and I believe there are still judges who are going to help this country. Those who don't want us to go back to the past where we have been. We also want to go to the Constitutional court to make a raft of applications all aimed towards changing the legal framework that puts the court martial in its place. 
Do you believe that there is a court that can side with you, especially after the president said you wanted to kill him? 
As I said, not all judges have swum with the fish. I remember it was The Observer that reported that the president said that 'we will not release Kabaziguruka' but as you can see the courts have released me because in those courts there are judges who love this country.

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