By Pascal Kwesiga and Derrick Kyatuka
THE chairman of the General Court Martial, Maj. Gen. Levy Karuhanga, suspended business prematurely after two senior members failed to appear to constitute quorum for it to handle capital offences.
The court is composed of eight members including the chairman and the judge advocate, Lt.Col. Gideon Katinda, the court’s legal advisor.
The prosecutors and defense lawyers provided by the state are not members of the court panel that deliberates on cases and delivers rulings.
Karuhanga suspended business at the court after Katinda said the capital offences could not be handled because two senior members at the rank of majors were missing on the panel.
“Honorable chairman we cannot handle capital offences without quorum. We are still waiting for the members,” Katinda said before Karuhanga suspended the court that sits in Makindye.
Most members of the court panel hold more than one office in the military and they don’t appear in court sometimes due to their busy schedules. This partly explains why some cases have been in the military court for a long time.
The only case the court handled by lunch time on Tuesday involved four former UPDF soldiers (privates) who were challenging their sentence and dismissal from the army with disgrace by a divisional court martial over manslaughter a few years ago.
The court freed them but upheld the decision of the divisional court martial to dismiss them from the defense forces with disgrace.
The court was scheduled to hear the final arguments from Lt. Col. Benson Olanya’s defense lawyers in a case in which he is accused of misappropriating fuel in Somalia.
Olanya, the former commander of the 343 battalion in Somalia, is alleged to have committed the offence in 2013. His lawyers were also expected to make another attempt to secure his release on bail.
Olanya, who has been in detention at the Military Police headquarters since 2013, has been denied bail several times despite his pleas to be released on medical grounds.
Court martial fails to sit due to lack of quorum