By Umaru Kashaka
The shadow minister for defence Hassan Fungaroo has said the military Court Martial should be reformed in order to conform to Uganda’s system for the administration of justice.
Addressing a press conference at Parliament, the Obongi County MP noted that currently the Court Martial “is faulty and works as if it is the headquarters of injustice in the country”.
“It is improper for civilians accused of treason or treason related offences to be tried in the military Court Martial under section 119 of the UPDF Act 2005, because, civilians are civilians,” he argued.
He stated that the institutional, legal and policy framework of the Court is not well known to civilians and soldiers.
“We want to know who qualifies and what qualifies a suspect for trial in a military court—is it his or her membership in a military institution or the type of crime they have been accused of,” he said.
Obongi also argued that the military court can convict and sentence a person to death, and yet due to its composition, staffing, resources and the military traditions of secrecy in the conduct of its business, the court does not have sufficient capacity for protection of human rights.
“As provided under Article 22 of the Constitution, no person shall be deprived of life intentionally except in execution of a sentence passed in a fair trial but a competent court in a competent jurisdiction in respect of a criminal offence under the laws of Uganda and the convictions and sentence have been confirmed by the highest appellate court,” he said.
He further claimed that under article 120 (3), the Director of Public Prosecutions (DPP) has no control over decisions of the Court Martial and therefore without the DPP there can’t be a fair trial in the Court Martial.
Responding to the allegations, the Uganda People's Defence Force (UPDF) deputy spokesman, Maj Henry Obbo, said the army is only implementing what parliament passed.
“If the MP is calling for reforms, it should be Parliament to do that. But why do they want to politicize security matters by speaking now?” he asked.
He stated that the army is interested in those who were arrested or captured in possession of firearms, those who attacked the military with firearms and those who used firearms to kill armed forces because that is what the law says.
“Section 119 of the 2005 UPDF Act says that a civilian can be tried in a Court Marital if found in illegal possession of arms, ammunition or any other stores that are ordinarily a monopoly of armed forces or if a civilian abets a member of defence forces to commit a service offence,” Obbo told New Vision.
Meanwhile, Obbo said suspects (about 170) who attacked Rwenzori region on July 5 will be screened tomorrow to isolate those to be court-martialled while others will be prosecuted in regular courts.
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More than 80 people, majority civilians, were either shot dead or hacked to death on July 5 when a group of youth the government said were tribal militiamen staged simultaneous attacks in Bundibugyo, Kasese and Ntoroko districts in western Uganda.