Uganda detention without trial questioned

The Uganda High Court in early April 2012 released four men who had been facing terrorism charges since the September 2009 Buganda riots. The Observer newspaper questions in an editorial why the men were kept in detention for 30 months when there was no evidence with which to try them.

"The High Court this week released four men who had been facing terrorism charges arising out of the September 2009 Buganda riots. For Adadi Kibuuka, Bashir Mubiru, Bob Kakembo and Paul Kikulwe, and for their families, this was great news. Being locked up, losing one's freedom, being separated from family and friends, losing one's ability to earn a living, among other things, can have serious repercussions for detainees and their loved ones.

The state must be commended for deciding to release the suspects, after finding that they had no case to answer. However, we are baffled that it took the authorities two and a half years to come to this conclusion. It is a callous abuse of the legal system for the state to simply tell the suspects that, after nearly three years of imprisonment, they are free to go home. That is injustice.

This can only mean that the state either was, or is, wrong. If the state was wrong to deny these men their freedom all this long, then the decent thing to do would be to issue a public apology and seek to compensate them. If the state is wrong in releasing suspected terrorists, then it must give us assurances about our security.

Article 28(a) (a) of our Constitution says that every person is presumed innocent until proven guilty. One implication of this provision is that the state has the responsibility to carry out thorough investigations and obtain prima facie evidence, before suspects are arrested, detained and prosecuted. This does not appear to have been the case with regard to the four freed suspects.

That brings us to the role of the Director of Public Prosecutions. If there was no evidence in the first place, how did the DPP approve the charges? In our view, the handling of this case does not reflect regard for "the interest of the administration of justice and the need to prevent abuse of the legal process" as required by Article 120(5) of the Constitution.The institution of the DPP has a responsibility to ensure that it functions as a vehicle for delivering justice, rather than a conduit through which injustice is dispensed."

- The Observer, Uganda, 12 April 2012

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