Uganda’s national army the UPDF has saluted the Supreme Court for issuing an interim order blocking the implemention of a Constitutional Court decision barring military courts from trying civilians.
On July 15, the Supreme Court granted Attorney General Kiryowa Kiwanuka’s request to stay the implemention of Constitutional Court orders to review cases of all civilians tried in the army courts.
AG Kiryowa Kiwanuka had rushed to the Supreme Court to submit his Memorandum of Appeal, challenging the July 01 Constitutional Court decision in the 2016 petition filed by now former Nakawa MP Michael Kabaziguruka and 45 others.
Five years ago, Kabaziguruka and his co-petitioners challenged their trial in the Court Martial, saying they were civilians. They faced treason charges.
And four members of a five-judge bench agreed with them.
Only Justice Stephen Musota dissented, insisting the military courts had jurisdiction over civilians.
The rest ruled that the General Court Martial and other military courts were disciplinary tribunals supervised by the executive.
They added that the members on these panels or courts are appointees of the UPDF High Command.
President Yoweri Kaguta Tibuhaburwa Museveni is the chairman of the UPDF High Command.
The four further declared section 119 (2) of the UPDF Act unconstitutional.
This means that if the Supreme Court upholds the Constitutional Court ruling, it will be illegal to subject civilians to military law.
Further more, majority of the members of the Constitutional Court bench ordered that sentences made by the military courts in trials of civilians be sent to the Criminal Division of the High Court for review within 14 days.
In his argument, AG Kiryowa Kiwanuka said it was erroneous for the Constitutional Court to rule that the General Court Martial and other military courts were partial and not independent of the executive arm of government.
Ahead of the Supreme Court’s decision on AG Kiryowa Kiwanuka’s appeal – expected in the next fortnight, after July 29 – the UPDF has praised the Supreme Court for suspending the Constitutional Court’s decision.
A statement by UPDF spokesperson Brig Gen Flavia Byekwaso said the order by the highest court in the land was in the spirit of fighting terrorism.
“We applaud Supreme Court’s suspension of the execution of a Constitutional Court ruling barring UPDF courts from trying civilians,” said Brig Gen Byekwaso.
“This reinforces our resolve to fight terrorism and promotes peace by deterring unauthorized persons from using Defence stores, most of which are lethal.”