250 Civilians Still Facing Trial Court Martial: Rwakafuzi

1808 Views Kampala, Uganda

In short
The directive came after Kiiza Besigye, the former FDC president and 22 others in 2006 successfully challenged their trial in the army court.

250 Civilians are still languishing in the Court martial two years after the army announced that it was halting their trial there. In 2011, Felix Kulayigye, the former UPDF spokesman said the army had halted the trial of civilians in the court martial in respect of the constitutional court ruling. The directive came after Kiiza Besigye, the former FDC president and 22 others in 2006 successfully challenged their trial in the army court. Besigye, who was facing charges of rape and treason, argued that it was illegal for him to stand trial in a military court yet he had retired from the army and was living a civilian life. 

In its ruling, the constitutional court concurred with Besigye saying it was illegal for him to be tried in the military court yet he was a civilian. Subsequently, all the charges against him before the general court martial were dropped. Following the ruling the Army announced the suspension of the trial of all Civilians in the General Court Martial and directed all their case files and suspects handed over to civilian courts. 

However, Human Rights Lawyer Ladislaus Rwakafuzi says that even since the directive was issued he has only managed to get 35 civilians freed by the Court martial. Rwakafuzi has already presented his case before the Supreme Court and is waiting for a verdict on whether or not it is okay to try Civilians before the Court martial. Rwakafuzi says the Court martial is not supposed to try civilians on offences under the penal code and firearms act like robbery, murder and possession of firearms.

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Following the Constitutional court ruling not to try civilians before the General Court Martial, Rwakafuzi made an application through the High court to have all civilians facing trial in the army court freed. However, the High court ruled that if a civilian commits a gun related crime he should be tried before the General Court Martial. Rwakafuzi says he made an appeal to the Court of Appeal which upheld the High court ruling. Recently, five civilians were tried and convicted by the court martial.

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Rwakafuzi vowed to continue with the case until the 250 civilians being tried by the court martial regain their freedom.