Following the brutal arrest on Thursday of nine suspects from within court chambers, the Uganda Judiciary has for the first time ever gone on strike over what they call gross infringement on its independence by the executive.
All judicial business for all courts in Uganda is suspended with effect from Monday March 5 2007. In a statement to the press late yesterday, the acting Chief Justice Ms Leticia Mukasa Kikonyogo cited the repeated violation of the sanctity of the court premises, disobedience of court orders with impunity and the constant threats and attacks on the safety and independence of the judiciary and judicial officers as the reasons for the strike.
Oscar Kihika is the president of the Uganda law society. VOA reporter Douglas Mpuga reached him in the Ugandan capital Kampala and asked what he makes of this situation.
“I think this action by the judiciary is a result of frustration by the lack of recognition of the independence of judiciary in their exercise of their duties as an arm of government,” he said.
Kihika said there has been repeated government interference and refusal to comply with orders of the court particularly with regard to the PRA suspects. “The manner in which organs of the state- the executive arm of government- has defied court orders and even gone ahead to arrest suspects that have been granted bail on court premises is very frustrating.”
He said the judiciary wants to have a firm commitment and reassurance from government that their authority will be respected in the future. “The Uganda Law society has issued a ‘strong note of protest’ to government expressing concern and condemning the actions by security personnel that even led to the assault of one of our members while he was executing his duties as defense lawyer”.
Kihika also said that in addition all Uganda Law society members will hold an emergency meeting next week to make a resolution on the way forward. “We are likely to initiate prosecution of the people who assaulted one of our members, but I am still gathering views and suggestion from members,” he said.
On the issue of the suspects who were re-arrested immediately after being granted bail, Mr. Kihika said although the government is within its rights to re-arrest any suspect released on bail if that person is suspected of any other crime, the timing in this case is questionable.
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