Rwenzori Attacks: Court Martial Has Jurisdiction to Try Suspects

1618 Views Kasese, Uganda

In short
In their application the suspects argued that, this particular provision wasn't applicable to their case since they hadn't aided nor abetted any person subject to military law to commit a crime.

The army General Court Martial has dismissed an application by 23 suspects of the Rwenzori attacks challenging their trial by the army court. Some of the suspects are Mitusera  Kule Isebayanda, the Rwenzururu Kingdom youth chairperson, Muhammud Kibolerya, the LC Chairperson 1 Bigando village and his son Amis Masereka among others.
 
Through their lawyers Geoffrey Sibendire and Major Ronald Iduli, the suspects filed an application before the court martial contesting the jurisdiction of the army court to try them basing on provisions of the UPDF act. 

Section 119 (1) (g) and (h) of the UPDF Act 2005 stipulates that ,every person, not otherwise subject to military law, who aids or abets a person subject to military law in the commission of a service offense; and (h) every person found in unlawful possession of (i) arms, ammunition or equipment ordinarily being the monopoly of the Defense Forces; or (ii) other classified stores as prescribed, is subject to military law and can be tried in military courts as appropriate.
 
In their application the suspects argued that, this particular provision wasn't applicable to their case since they hadn't aided nor abetted any person subject to military law to commit a crime. However, in response prosecution led by Maj. Fredrick Kangwamu asked court to dismiss the application since there was evidence that the suspects had used guns to kill Cops at Kasese weigh bridge station.
 
In his ruling, Maj. Gen. Levi Karuhanga, the chairperson of the court martial dismissed the application saying court has the jurisdiction to try the suspects under section 119 of the UPDF act based on evidence tabled by the prosecution showing that the suspects used guns to execute their mission.

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Karuhanga also said court can't discount the evidence tabled by the prosecution as requested by the defense counsel last week. The defense team had asked court to disregard the evidence describing it as mere suspicion. Karuhanga noted that, despite finding reasonable evidence against the 23 suspects, court did not find any evidence against Kisenga Bwambale since he was not mentioned in the case and therefore set him free.

He ordered the remaining suspects to defend themselves against therefore asked the suspects to prepare their defense on the charges of murder, illegal possession of fire arms and ammunition and offences related to security and guard duties. He however, acquitted them against the charges of attempted murder of Gladys Ariho, a resident of Bigando area in Kitswamba sub-county as a requested by the defense since principle witness was never called to testify.

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Maj. Fredrick Kangwamu, the state prosecutor told URN shortly after court that he was happy with the two rulings. Geoffrey Sibendire, the defense lawyer said they wouldn't appeal the ruling until the matter is disposed off.

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Court has set May 19, 2015 as judgment day.  At least over 100 lives were lost during the deadly July 5 2014 ethnic clashes in the Rwenzori region. The dead included civilians, soldiers and police officers.