Lawyer Writes To Chief Justice Over Arrests Within Court Premises

2643 Views Gulu, Uganda

In short
In his letter, Nicholas Opiyo described the arrest as unlawful and an affront to the judicial independence, adding that it violates the sanctity of the temple of justice.

A human rights lawyer has written to Chief Justice Bert Katurebe protesting re-arrest of discharged persons within court premises.
 
In his letter dated January 16th, Nicholas Opiyo, the Executive Director of Chapter Four, cited arrest of Uganda People's Congress (UPC) party national deputy mobiliser, Dan Odia and two others from Gulu court premises on January 12th as actions that must be prevented.
 
Odia was picked alongside co-accused Kenneth Otto and Sam Oboma minutes after they were discharged by Court. The trio had been produced in court on treason, concealment of treason, murder and attempted murder charges. The Directorate of Public Prosecutions had decided to discontinue prosecutions against them.
 
In his letter, Opiyo described the arrest as unlawful and an affront to the judicial independence, adding that it violates the sanctity of the temple of justice.
 
"Firstly, my Lord Chief Justice, we acknowledge that the police have the powers to re-arrest discharged suspects if they have other charges against them, but we find the actions of forcefully doing so within the court premises unacceptable, unlawful and an affront to judicial independence and processes. It is a violation of the sanctity of the Temple of Justice,'' the letter reads in part.
 
According to Opiyo, the judiciary should move to investigate and stop a repeat of such arrests in order to uphold Article 23(6) of the Constitution.
 
The letter has been copied to and bears stamps of Principal Judge, deputy Chief Justice, Supreme Court, Uganda Law Society, Justice, Law and Order Sector, and Ministry of Justice and Constitutional Affairs.
 
"Provide guidance on the process of file sanctioning by State Attorneys and investigate conduct of security officers in Gulu courts in order to check possible abuse or manipulations of such processes including handling of bail," it reads.

Last week, Rwenzururu king, Charles Wesley Mumbere was arrested outside Jinja High Court shortly after he been granted bail. Mumbere faces murder, attempted murder, terrorism and treason among other charges folowing his arrest on November 27, 2016.
At least 100 people died in Kasese when the army raided Mumbere's palace.

In 2005, gunmen in military uniform stormed the High Court in Kampala and arrested treason suspects who had just been released by court. The then Principal Judge, Justice James Ogoola, described the incident as the rape of the temple of justice.