By John Odyek
The Solicitor General’s office has not received a formal request asking it to represent Ugandans arrested or convicted in various jails outside the country.
“It (formal request) has not yet come. We can give legal representation to Ugandans if the country asks for a commission and it is granted by other countries. We can then go and practice,” Christopher Gashirabaka, acting Solicitor General said.
He was responding to reports that the Solicitor General has not represented Ugandans abroad despite being asked to do so by the government.
“They should inform me. If the government writes to us, then they should provide the funding for us to travel. We also need to know the cases involved to determine the number of lawyers to travel,” Gashirabaka said.
Gashirabaka added that for convicted Ugandans there can be administrative arrangements but not legal arrangements where those convicted and serving sentences abroad can be transferred to serve their sentences at home. He said for Commonwealth Countries there is the Harare Protocol which provides that convicts can be transferred to serve sentences at home.
Oliver Wonekha, Uganda's ambassador to Washington said there are over 2,000 Ugandans in US jails.
The ambassador said when President Yoweri Museveni was in USA promised that the solicitor general would help the incarcerated Ugandans.
“I raised the issue with the Vice President Edward Ssekandi on his recent visit to US who promised that the Solicitor General would be sent to study the situation and represent the Ugandans who need help. But they have not come,” Wonekha said.
She said she had limited resources to help and visit Ugandans held in various jails in the USA. “We hope if we get more resources we can visit the Ugandans and follow up their cases,” she said. Wonekha raised the issue at a recent conference of Uganda’s ambassadors and high commissioner in Kampala.
Fred Opolot, ministry of foreign affairs spokesperson said the ministry was exploring what to do about the cases of Ugandans arrested. “We shall come up with a position on that. It is true that there a number of Ugandans arrested abroad.
Some embassies have tried to provide consular services and legal services. But there is limited resources for legal representation,” Opolot said.