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Regional court dismisses Mabirizi age limit appeal

By Farooq Kasule & Andante Okanya

Added 30th September 2020 01:12 PM

The court also cleared Chief Justice Emeritus Bart Katureebe of incompetence and bias as alleged by Mabirizi.

Regional court dismisses Mabirizi age limit appeal

Lawyer Hassan Male Mabirizi. (File photo)

The court also cleared Chief Justice Emeritus Bart Katureebe of incompetence and bias as alleged by Mabirizi.

COURT

The East African Court of Justice (EACJ) First Instance Division has dismissed with costs the presidential age limit appeal by Kampala lawyer Hassan Male Mabirizi.

In a judgement read by EACJ principal judge Monica Mugenyi in a virtually held session, the court noted that presidential age limit removal did not violate the rule of law principle in Uganda.

The court also cleared Chief Justice Emeritus Bart Katureebe of incompetence and bias as alleged by Mabirizi.

The court therefore upheld the majority Supreme Court decision in the matter.

Three months ago, on July 14, five judges at the Arusha-based court in Tanzania, remotely heard the final submissions from Mabirizi and Uganda's Attorney General William Byaruhanga.

Grievance

In his petition, Mabirizi argued that the entire tabling, debating, and passing of the bill was procedurally defective. The contentious Article 102(b) prescribes on term limits.

Last year on May 3, Mabirizi petitioned EACJ to invalidate the Constitutional Amendment Act 2018, which endorsed presidential age limit removal in the Constitution.

The petition was prompted by the Supreme Court pronouncement in which majority justices (4:3) dismissed Mabirizi's appeal on the premise that minor omissions had no meaningful effect on the process of the entire enactment of the Act.

The then Chief Justice Bart Katureebe, Stella Arach Amoko, Rubby Opio Aweri, and Jotham Tumwesigye upheld the earlier Constitutional Court verdict. The dissenters were Eldad Mwangusya, Lilian Tibatemwa- Ekirikubinza and Paul Mugamba.

Mabirizi contended that the actions of Parliament, Executive and the Judiciary contravened provisions of the Treaty for Establishment of the East African Community (EAC).

Meanwhile, at the time, Attorney General Byaruhanga maintained his earlier stance as Government's chief legal representative and adviser, describing Mabirizi's push as a camouflage.

He emphasised that the case be dismissed with costs, on grounds that it had become res-judicata (decision already reached by competent court and matter closed).

Byaruhanga explained that the apex court (Supreme Court) had made its decision and that it was the final appellate court in the country's constitutional interpretation.

He also noted that Parliament adhered to the EAC Treaty and its democratic governance provisions when endorsing the Constitution Amendment Act Number 1 of 2018.

Genesis

On December 20, 2017, Parliament amended the Constitution, consequently lifted the presidential age limit and also the term of parliament to seven years, which prompted Mabirizi and four others to petition the Constitutional Court.

On July 26, 2018, the Constitutional Court in a majority decision of 4:1 allowed the removal of the presidential age limit.

However, the court unanimously declared the extension of the term of members of parliament and local government as unconstitutional.

Then-Deputy Chief Justice Alfonse Owiny-Dollo, Justices Remmy Kasule, Elizabeth Musoke, and Cheborion Barishaki allowed the removal of the Presidential age limit. Kenneth Kakuru dissented.

Subsequently, Mabirizi and other petitioners went to the Supreme Court, seeking to quash the amendment.

But last year on April 18, the apex court agreed with the Constitutional Court pronouncement.

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