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Home >> World
UPDATED: 08:45, March 08, 2007
East Africa Law Society to sue Ugandan gov't over court siege
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The East Africa Law Society (EALS), an umbrella organization that brings together lawyers in the East African region, has vowed to take the Ugandan government to court over a recent court siege in Kampala by armed security personnel.

According to a statement issued by the EALS here on Wednesday, there has been an increasing trend of violation of the country's constitution, principles of separation of powers and judicial independence.

"We assure the people and governments of East Africa that the legal profession in the region has resolved to stand firm and proactively defend the rule of law, using all lawful means at its disposal, immediately it is endangered anywhere in East Africa," the statement said.

Last Thursday, armed security personnel besieged the High Court in Kampala to rearrest suspect rebels of the People's Redemption Army (PRA) who were facing fresh murder charges.

In the process doors and other court property were damaged forcing the judiciary to announce a five-day strike which started on Monday.

"We express solidarity with and reiterate our total support for the judiciary, including in its suspension of Court business, and the legal profession in Uganda at this challenging period in history of the region," the EALS statement said.

The EALS said it is going to sue the Ugandan government in courts of law over the court siege, the second in two years after the Nov. 16, 2005 one by the Black Mamba military unit, which arrested the rebel suspects after they had been granted bail by the High Court.

"Upon holding talks with the Uganda Law Society and various other stakeholders in Uganda and in the region, EALS has undertaken to spearhead the institution of litigation regarding this matter at the East African Court of Justice and/or the African Commission of Human and People's Rights and the African Court of Human and Peoples' Rights."

The EALS said it will also write to and table the matter for further discussion and resolution before the Summit of the East African Community, the Peace and Security Council of the African Union and the Commonwealth Secretariat.

Ugandan President Yoweri Museveni told a news conference in Kampala on Monday that the government has instituted an investigation that led to the siege with a view of taking corrective measures.

"What happened at the high court is not what should have happened. What we shall do is to dissect the matter and look at what should have happened," Museveni told journalists shortly after meeting Chief Justice Benjamin Odoki and Speaker of Parliament Edward Ssekandi.

Meanwhile the Judiciary met in Kampala on Wednesday to discuss when to call off their nation-wide strike.

The lengthy meeting chaired by Justice Odoki was however adjourned to Friday. The judicial officials who attended the meeting including magistrates were reluctant to disclose what transpired in the meeting.

"This meeting was not in position to conclude the matter. We can say the resolution (court going on strike) still stands until Friday when we meet again. We can not talk much because the meeting is half way," said Lawrence Gidudu, the chief registrar of the High Court.

Source: Xinhua

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