Public interest litigation lawyer Isaac Ssemakadde has sued the government of Uganda in the East African Court of Justice seeking to get the recently passed Computer Misuse (Amendment) Act nullified.
Through Democracy and human rights watchdog Legal Brains Trust which he heads, Ssemakadde filed a petition on Monday, October 17 in the First Instance Division of the Arusha-based East African Court of Justice, a petition that pits the aggressive watchdog against the Attorney General of Uganda, who has since been summoned to file the government’s response within 45 days without fail.
Legal Brains Trust accuses government of violating its duties under Article 9 of the African Charter on Human and Peoples’ Rights, Article 19 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, and Articles 29(1)(a) and 43 of the Constitution of Uganda, which set a high standard for democracy and freedom of expression in the region, and thereby failing to abide by the principles of good governance enshrined in Articles 6(d) and 7(2) of the East African Community Treaty.
Regarding good governance, Legal Brains Trust asserts this about the amended law: “It is a defectively processed blunt instrument that disproportionately restricts freedom of expression online on vague, overly broad and unfounded pretexts, and will immediately be weaponised by the Ugandan authorities to silence dissent and prevent people from speaking out against bad governance.”
Legal Brains Trust wants the East African Court of Justice to make a declaration that all the provisions of Uganda’s Computer Misuse (Amendment) Act, 2022 as recently passed are an infringement of the principles of good governance enshrined in Articles 6(d) and 7(2) of the East African Community Treaty, and hence invalid.
The democracy and human rights watchdog also wants the court to issue an order directing the government of Uganda to cease and desist from implementing any part of the contested law, order that Uganda amends its law to reflect the findings of the Court and report back to the Court within 60 days or any time as the court may determine. The petitioner also wants to be awarded costs of the suit.
Commenting on this development, Advocate Isaac Ssemakadde, the executive director of Legal Brains Trust said; “this matter is too important to be left to the biased, lethargic and emasculated local judiciary.
“At their 23rd annual conference in February this year, the senior judges and justices of Uganda passed an anti-democratic resolution literally urging the government to conduct further surveillance and repression of critical voices on the Internet.
“Ugandan security and intelligence operators, prosecutors, magistrates and even High Court judges routinely violate the freedom of internet users with impunity, and the Constitutional Court has abdicated its human rights protection mandate by unreasonably failing to determine a dozen petitions challenging draconian provisions in the pre-existing computer misuse law since its commencement in 2011. Clearly, maize cannot expect justice in a court composed of chickens.”