Monday, July 12, 2021

Stirrings in Uganda's "graveyard of constitutional petitions" -- or a false alarm?

Derrick Kiyonga and Joel Mukisa have written this worthwhile account of Uganda's Constitutional Court, including comments by Global Military Justice Reform contributor Dr. Ronald Naluwairo. The court has a considerable backlog but seems to be starved for administrative resources. About its latest decision, concerning the trial of civilians by courts-martial, the authors suggest that the victory may have left a critical loophole:

Going by the majority judgment, it also clear that there are situations where even after these judgments civilians might be tried under the military court. 

In their final orders, the justices said Section 119(1)(g) of the UPDF Act is not unconstitutional provided the person not otherwise subject to military law is tried as an accomplice together with a person who is subject to military law as the principal offender on the same charge sheet. 

“The Constitutional Court should not be applauded for delivering what is essentially a juristic counterfeit that will continue to expose civilians to the dreaded dungeons of the NRA military junta through arbitrary classification as ‘an accomplice’ of a person subject to military law,” says [democracy and human rights activist Isaac Kimaze] Ssemakadde.

The article chronicles the numerous efforts that have been made over the years to push back against the use of military courts to try civilians. It's too soon to say whether the Constitutional Court's latest ruling is a one-off or marks a turning point. Will it survive appellate review by the Supreme Court? 

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