President Museveni has walked a line different from the Chief Justice Alphonse Owiny Dollo in regards the issue of bail to people accused of being involved in murder.
Speaking during the fourth annual Ben Kiwanuka memorial lecture at the High Court grounds in Kampala, the president insisted that those accused of murder should not be granted bail.
“In no time we are now being told that bail is a right. Really! Somebody has killed a person and you see him walking here! This is a provocation I can tell you. Judges must be very careful because they are playing in a very dangerous area which we can’t accept,” Museveni said.
The president insisted that it is not fair for someone accused of having killed another person to be seen walking free on streets after being granted bail.
He noted that the issue of granting bail to people accused of murder will make the public lose trust in government and especially the judiciary.
“This bail is a big provocation. It will cause us problems. It will discredit the whole system including the judiciary. We are going to address it constitutionally. I am very ready to engage with judiciary but also take it up politically to constitutionally see what to do. It is going to cause us a lot of problems.”
CJ Dollo responds
In his speech, the Chief Justice Alphonse Owiny Dollo said that many factors are considered by judicial officers before granting bail to accused people but insisted bail is a constitutional right.
“The constitution gives discretion to judicial officers to grant bail. A judicial officer doesn’t wake up from the wrong side of the bed and deny bail to an applicant or wake up from the right side of the bed to grant bail to all and sundry. The rules for grant of bail are clear and there are many factors considered,” Dollo said.
He said rules for grant of bail are set out any many factors are considered by judicial officers to ensure the accused person will turn back before granting bail.
We know capital offences are of gave concern to community and it is the duty of judicial officers to look at all circumstances and boldly make decisions to grant or not to grant bail. I would love to see judicial officers making taking into account these considerations so that there is no doubt to what could have moved a particular officer to grant bail,” Dollo said.
The right to bail is a fundamental right guaranteed by Article 23 (6) of the 1995 Constitution of the Republic of Uganda.
The constitution says that where a person is arrested in respect of a criminal offence, they are entitled to apply to the court to be released on bail and the court may grant that person bail on such conditions as the court considers reasonable.
It also says that in the case of an offence which is triable by the High Court as well as by a subordinate court,
the person shall be released on bail on such conditions as the court considers reasonable, if that person has been remanded in custody in respect of the offence before trial for 120 days .
The Constitution adds that in the case of an offence triable only by the High Court the person shall be released on bail on such conditions as the Court considers reasonable, if the person has been remanded in custody
for three hundred and sixty days before the case is committed to the High Court.
The basis of this provision is found in Article 28 of the same Constitution which states that an accused person is to be presumed innocent until he/she is proved or he/she pleads guilty.
President Museveni recently said he would summon the NRM caucus in parliament to see how to go about the issue of granting bail to capital offenders.
He said the issue of bail would be put to a referendum for Ugandans to decide.
The developments come on the backdrop of the release on bail of two opposition MPs Allan Ssewanyana of Makindye West and his Kawempe North counterpart Muhammad Ssegirinya who have been in jail for over two weeks after being remanded over the recent spate of murders in Masaka.
However, following the release on bail by the High Court in Masaka, they were re-arrested by security and are currently detained.
Police has since said in two separate statements that the two opposition legislators face fresh charges related to treason and incitement of violence and this led to their re-arrest.