By Francis Emorut
The Court of Appeal Judge, Remmy Kasule, has criticized the Police over dispersing civil society and opposition rallies saying it is an infringement on peoples’ rights to freedom of assembly and expression.
“Where individuals assemble, if Police entertain a reasonable belief that some disturbances may occur during the assembly, all that can be done is to provide security and supervision in anticipation of disturbances.
"It is the paramount duty of the Police to maintain law and order but not to curtail people’s enshrined freedoms and liberties on mere anticipatory grounds which might turn out to be false,” Kasule told fellow judges, law experts, academia, civil society, lawyers and magistrates.
He was speaking during the workshop on using public interest law to deliver democracy in East Africa held in Kampala.
The workshop was organized by international Governance Alliance (iGA) aimed at exploring best practices in using strategic litigation as a tool to reduce marginalization and enable social inclusion.
“Lawful assemblies shouldn’t be dispersed under any circumstances,” Kasule stated.
He pointed out that in a free democratic society the Police is supposed to keep law and order and if the Inspector General of Police sees any possibility of a breach of peace at assembly the Police should provide protection.
“The citizens should be allowed to exercise their fundamental rights and freedoms,” he said.
Justice Kasule was presenting a paper titled: “How Public Interest Law can Promote in Delivering Democracy in East Africa.”
“A society, especially a democratic one should be able to tolerate some annoyance or disorder so as to encourage the greatest possible freedom of expression particularly political expression.”
He hinted that the powers given to IGP to prohibit the convening of an assembly or procession is unjustified limitation on the enjoyment of fundamental rights.
The Principal Judge Yorokamu Bamwine (centre) Court of Appeal Judge Remmy Kasule (right) sharing a light moment with participants after the international Governance Alliance workshop on using public interest to deliver democracy in East Africa at Kampala Sheraton Hotel. PHOTO/Francis Emorut
“Such limitation is not demonstrably justified in a free and democratic country like Uganda,” the Judge said.
This comes after Parliament last year enacted Public Order and Management Act giving the Police more powers to determine whether an assembly should be allowed to take place or not.
“The Police have a wide range of powers to control and restrict the actions of protestors. These powers shouldn’t be exercised by the Police in an unaccountable and discriminatory manner,” he said.
Kasule however, warned that right to peaceful protest is not absolute.
The Makerere University Don Prof. Onyango Oloka observed that there is public frustration on the collapse of some institutions.
He said there was need for law experts to interface with judges.
The Principal Judge, Justice Yorokamu Bamwine, disagreed with Oloka’s assertion on collapsed institutions saying the judiciary under his docket was vibrant and the public has gained confidence in it.
“The Judiciary is now being appreciated as non-violence Avenue by some section of society,” Bamwine said.
“Today Judges and Magistrates are being mindful of the judicial powers they have and they have administered justice appropriately,” he said.
Dr. Maria Nassali the executive director iGA explained that public interest litigation seeks to afford justice for the marginalized group in society, influence good regional governance practices and expose injustices.
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