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Legal Watchdog Group Calls for Fair Trial for Ugandan Opposition Leader


An international legal watchdog group is calling on the Ugandan government to ensure opposition leader Kizza Besigye has a fair trial. The International Commission of Jurists, or ICJ, says it would be illegal to try him in a military court.

Mr. Besigye faces treason, rape, terrorism and weapons charges, some of which are set to be heard by a military tribunal. Mr. Besigye leads the Forum For Change opposition party and was arrested last month, shortly after returning from a four-year exile.

.Gerald Staberock is director of the Global Security and Rule of Law Program for the International Commission of Jurists. From Geneva, he spoke to English to Africa reporter Joe De Capua about the organization’s concerns. “Well, I think what we’ve seen over the last couple of weeks, there have been a number of interferences into the independence of the judiciary in Uganda in the context of this case. And I think especially if you have a very charged political atmosphere, it’s of utmost importance that there is full independence and that the person is tried in strict compliance with international human rights standards," he says.

The ICJ says it is concerned by actions taken by Ugandan security forces on November 16th, when they “invaded the premises of the high court” during a bail hearing. Mr. Staberock says, “That clearly is an interference into the independence of the judiciary that is unacceptable. Moreover, I think under international law [there is] a very clear standard that civilians must not be tried by military court. And this is one of the biggest concerns we have in this present case.”

The ICJ is sending an observer to Mr. Besigye’s trial, which is due to start on December 19th.