Nubian Li, Eddie Mutwe Lose Application to Block Military Court Trial

Forty-nine-49 National Unity Platform-NUP party supporters have lost their application in which they sought to block their trial in the Uganda People Defense Forces-UPDF General court-martial for illegal possession of ammunition.

Lady Justice Esta Nambayo dismissed the application on Tuesday afternoon on grounds that it lacks merit, saying the process leading to the arrest of the applicant and their subsequent prosecution in the military court was lawful.

Key among the applicants are music artist Ali Bukeni alias Nubian and Edward Ssebufu alias Eddie Mutwe.  They were arrested on December 29th 2020 on their way to Kalangala District where the former NUP presidential candidate, Robert Kyagulanyi was scheduled to holding his campaigns.

The suspects were arraigned before Masaka magistrate’s court on January 4th 2021 charges of inciting violence and doing an act likely to spread diseases. They were granted bail but were re-arrested by security shortly after and returned to prison.

On January 7th, 2021, they were transferred to Makindye military barracks where they appeared the next day in the court-martial for illegal possession of four bullets before being remanded to Kitalya prison. As a result, the suspect’s lawyer petitioned high court to order the unconditional release of the accused person on grounds that they had spent more than the mandatory 48 hours in detention.

They also argued the whole procedure surrounding the arrest and prosecution of their clients was marred with several human rights violations. They cited their detention at Kasajagirwa barracks in Masaka, which isn’t a gazetted detention center, the transfer of the suspects to the Court Martial, being denied access to their lawyers, next of kins and medical doctors among others.

However, during the hearing, the Greater Masaka Regional Police Commander, Enock Abaine explained that the suspects were arrested on December 30th 2020 and the charges drawn on December 31st, 2020. He explained that on January 1st, 2021 was a gazettes public holiday that was followed by a weekend.

Abaine also noted that police couldn’t handle the 99 suspects in custody and decided to transfer 14 of them to Kasajagirwa barracks for safe custody. Abaine, whose arguments were supported by other affidavits defending the actions of the Attorney General accordingly asked the High court to dismiss the matter.

In her judgment, Justice Esta Nambayo argued that the reasons presented by the Attorney General through his agents were convincing. Nambayo also explained that as civilians, the applicants were lawfully charged under section 119 of the UPDF Act since they were found in possession of ammunition that are a monopoly of the Defense Forces and are therefore subject to military law.

As such, the Judge noted that unless section 119 of the UPDF Act is repealed or declared unconstitutional, it shall remain in force and civilians will still appear in military courts. She also noted that there was no evidence to support the alleged human rights violations by the applicants and that they were denied access to their lawyers, doctors and next of kin.

She, therefore, dismissed the application and ordered each party to meet its costs since the matter is still pending in the General Court Martial. However, 13 of the 49 suspects who were challenging their trial in the military court are out on bond.

The general court-martial chairperson, Lt. Gen. Andrew Gutti declined to release the 36 other suspects, saying that the acts of violence were most likely to continue if they are granted bail. The suspect made a second attempt to push for their bail the Criminal Division of High Court but they were denied audience.

Their lawyer, Fredrick Kalule told URN that they would study Justice Nambayo’s judgment before announcing their next course of action.



Johnson Ategeka