Lawyer challenges new bail guidelines on capital offenders

Human Rights activist and lawyer, Mr Steven Kalali, has filed a constitutional petition challenging the bail guideline and directives of 2022 that Uganda’s Chief Justice, Mr Alfonso Owiny Dollo issued.

In his petition against the Attorney General, Mr Kalali claims that the guidelines are unconstitutional and by issuing them, Mr Dollo abused his powers bestowed on him since they are in contravention and inconsistent with various provisions of the 1995 constitution of Uganda.

The petitioner claims that while exercising his powers given to him by Article 133 of the Constitution, Mr Dollo surpassed the legislative powers of Parliament by making provisions in regard to mandatory bail in capital offences and vesting them to the High Court that he is the only one who has jurisdiction to release any suspect who has spent more than 180 days on remand.

“The constitution under Article 23(6c) clearly states that once a person has spent over 180 days on remand without committal, the court shall release such a person on terms of bail it may deem fit,” Mr Kalali explains.

He says the constitution does not specify on whether it should be the High Court limited with such powers and that such a suspect can be granted bail by the magistrate court that he will be currently appearing before.

The lawyer adds that the chief justice came up with guidelines that restrict or vest the powers to the High Court thereby trying to amend the constitutional provisions of Article 23(6c) which us a mandate of parliament pursuant to Article 79, 12 and 91.

Mr Kalali says the guidelines tend to have a force of law and lack sufficient public participation yet the constitution of Uganda under the principles of National and Democratic Policy allow individuals or citizens to take centre stage in participation in some of the decisions made yet there was not sufficient participation or consultation before the chief justice issued the impunity guidelines.

He now wants the Constitutional Court to declare the said guidelines unconstitutional and be quashed for lack of sufficient public participation since they are looking at mainly two rights they are likely to affect including the presumption of innocence and the right to liberty.

“Such a law that is likely to affect the rights that are enshrined under Chapter 4 needs sufficient public participation,” the lawyer says.

The guidelines in contention issued on July 27, 2022, say the clerk of the lower court prepares the case file and sends it to the High Court Registrar who then prepares the case file and forwards it before a High Court judge for consideration.


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