Prosecutors have failed to disclose the evidence they intend to rely on to pin two Members of Parliament Allan Ssewanyana and Muhammad Ssegirinya, for murder and terrorism charges citing delay to meet witnesses.
The prosecutors Joseph Kyomuhendo and Richard Birivumbuka informed the International Crimes Division of the High Court-ICD on Tuesday about the delay when the matter came up for pretrial before Lady Justice Jane Elizabeth Alidviza.
Ssegirinya, Ssewanyana and five others were on November 12th 2021, committed to face trial in the High Court on charges of murder, attempted murder, aiding and abetting terrorism arising from the wave of machete killings that marred Masaka and Lwengo districts between March and June 2021, where more than 20 people lost their lives.
The other accused are: Jackson Kanyike, John Mugerwa, Bull Wamala, Mike Sserwadda and Jude Muwonge.
When the matter came up, the Justice Alidviza first informed the accused persons that a pretrial is a procedure followed by the ICD to ensure a fair trial and to enable the case proceed expeditiously.
She said at this stage, the prosecutors are supposed to disclose all their evidence and exhibits they intend to use against the accused persons and it is her duty to mark them and weigh to see if they hold merit to sustain the charges at full trial before the matter can be heard by a panel of three Justices.
But on the prosecution’s side, Birivumbuka has told court that they have been unable to disclose the evidence on grounds that they have not yet visited and interviewed their witnesses in Masaka.
He indicated that they need to visit the witnesses and understand their challenges and appreciate which type of help or support they need but this one also requires collaboration from witness protection agencies.
This is something that the court had ordered the prosecution to do in the previous month.
But the court has heard that the prosecution lacked funds to do so because the financial year was coming to an end.
The duo further indicated to court that they intend to make a witness protection application before court in order to have their witnesses not exposed and since they have not done all this, they asked for 30 more days to organise their house.
In response, the lawyers representing the accused persons led by Erias Lukwago protested the adjournment arguing that it is meant to delay justice and not taking into consideration the rights of their clients.
As a result, the judge accused the prosecution of lack of seriousness in handling the case, refused to grant their one month’s adjournment prayer and instead drew up a tight pre-trial hearing schedule to start hearing the case on July 28th 2022.
The Judge has also warned the prosecution that she will grant no more adjournments.
She also directed the Uganda Prisons Services to produce Ssegirinya and Ssewanyana physically in court on the next date as they followed proceedings via zoom in Kigo prison as their co accused appeared physically in court.
In June 2022, the Court of Appeal Justices dismissed an application for bail by the two legislators for lack of jurisdiction and ordered the High Court to ensure that their trial is done expeditiously.