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City lawyers petition court to stop UPDF civilian arrests

By Hillary Nsambu

Added 22nd November 2017 03:32 PM

The petitioners contend that the deployment of the army to police civilians contravenes Article 209 of the Constitution, which provides for the functions of the UPDF.

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Two city lawyers have petitioned the Constitutional Court, seeking to stop the Uganda Peoples’ Defense Forces (UPDF) from arresting and detaining civilians.

Jeremiah Keeya Mwanje and Lawrence Alinaitwe, contended that by deploying UPDF soldiers to arrest and detain civilians in cases of civilian nature, the Government violats several Articles of the Constitution of which they sought interpretation and orders stopping further violation of the supreme law of the land.

Petitioning through Kakeeto, Ssekitto Advocates and Solicitors, the lawyers asked the court to interpret particularly Articles 208, 209 and 221, contending that the Government, by deploying UPDF soldiers to arrest civilians in matters of civilian nature, offended the Constitution.

In the petition they filed in court on November 8 against the Attorney General, the lawyers also accused the Government of violating the Constitution, particularly Articles 24, 28 and 44 (a)(c) by arraigning the suspects before the media.

The petitioners further contend that the deployment of the army to police civilians, contravens Article 209 of the Constitution, which provides for the functions of the UPDF. 

They averred that the act is in excess of UPDF’s mandate and; sections 42, 43 and 44 of the UPDF Act offended particularly Articles 209 and 210 of the Constitution.

They also contended that after the enactment of the Constitution, Parliament made efforts to affect Article 210 by enacting the UPDF Act 2005, in which it exceeded its constitutional mandate, upon which the state continued to contravene the Constitution in such acts.

Accompanied by supporting affidavits sworn by Mwanje and Alinaitwe, the petition sought declarations outlawing arrests and detention of civilians by UPDF in matters of civilian nature and; interpretation of the Constitution pertaining to Articles 208, 209 and 221 in regard to UPDF arrests of civilians and detaining them.   

A declaration as unconstitutional a deployment of the defense forces to police civilians contravened Article 209 of the Constitution and; a declaration that sections 42, 43 and 44 of the UPDF Act 2005 contravened Articles 209 and 210of the Constitution. 

Quoted the Constitution, they said: “Article 24 of the Constitution provides; “no person shall be subjected to any form of torture or cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment; while Article 28(1) provides, “in the determination of civil rights and obligations or any criminal charge, a person shall be entitled to a fair, speedy and public hearing before an independent and impartial court or tribunal established by law”. 

Article 28 (3)(a) of the Constitution provides: “Every person charged with a criminal offence shall be presumed innocent until proven guilty or until that person has pleaded guilty".

Article 209 of the Constitution provides for the functions of the UPDF and Article 210 empowers Parliament to regulate the defense forces.

Article 211(3) provides that the Uganda Police Force shall be nationalistic, patriotic, professional, disciplined, competent and productive and; its members shall be citizens of Uganda.  The Attorney General is yet to file a defense. 
         

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