Civil Society take Maternal Mortality Fight to Supreme Court

1829 Views Kampala, Uganda

In short
The Petitioners are seeking a declaration that by failing to provide the essential medical commodities and adequate health services to pregnant women, the government is violating their constitutional rights as mothers of Uganda.

A case in which government was sued over the high rate of preventable maternal deaths has been taken to the Supreme Court as petitioners appeal the initial court ruling that threw out their request.
 
A number of civil society organizations led by the Centre for Health, Human Rights and Development (CEHURD) together with affected individuals Rhoda Kukiriza, Valente Inziku and a Makerere Don Prof. Ben Twinomugisha filed the appeal in the Supreme Court against the case they lost last June in the Constitutional Court.  
 
The Constitutional Court then ruled that maternal mortality issues are a responsibility of the Executive arm of government to address and not court since it’s a “political question”.
 
The petitioners in the appeal now before the Supreme Court claim that the justices of the Constitutional Court erred in law when they misapplied the “political question” doctrine to be a responsibility of the Executive but not for the Judiciary.
 
The petitioners further argue that the justices of the Constitutional Court erred in law when they held that the petitioners did not raise competent questions that required their interpretation under article 137 of the constitution.

The Petitioners are seeking a declaration that by failing to provide the essential medical commodities and adequate health services to pregnant women, the government is violating their constitutional rights as mothers of Uganda. These rights include the right to life and the right to health.

They are also seeking compensation for the families of those who have lost their loved ones during deliveries for lack of the essentials in hospitals and health centers.

The matter came up this morning for hearing before a panel of Seven Judges of the Supreme Court led by Bart Katureebe, but it hit a snag after the attorney general’s representative; Ms Patricia Muteesi was reportedly sick and could not come to court to argue out the matter. Court instead adjourned the matter to the next session to hear it.
 
Medical statistics released recently by White Ribbon Alliance indicate that 17 women die every day in Uganda due to preventable maternal related issues. Previously, the number was at 16.   Most maternal deaths are due to causes directly related to pregnancy and childbirth, unsafe abortion and obstetric complications such as severe bleeding, infection, hypertensive disorders and obstructed labor.
 
Further, the statistics show that 106 new-born babies die every day in Uganda partly due to inadequate government investment in life-saving emergency obstetric and newborn care.
 
Should the Supreme Court overturn the ruling of the Constitutional Court, then this matter will be sent back to Constitutional Court to be heard on its merits.
 
The Constitutional Court had not heard this matter to its conclusion since it was dismissed at the preliminary stage when the attorney general raised a preliminary objection that the court concurred with.
 
The attorney general through Principal State Attorney Muteesi had successfully argued that the petition as framed fell under ‘political question’ and that it was supposed to be addressed by the Executive or the Legislature arm of the government but not the Judiciary.