Uganda: UN human rights office condemns invasion of High Court by armed police
The United Nations human rights office in Uganda has called on the Government to fully respect the independence of the judiciary after the intrusion of armed police at the High Court in Kampala, the capital, condemning it as a “blatant interference with the independence of the administration of justice by the executive branch.”
The UN Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights in Uganda (OHCHR Uganda) “reaffirms that an independent judiciary is key to upholding the rule of law in a democratic and free society,” it said in a statement on the incident, which prompted the judiciary to suspend all court activities nationwide.
According to reports, after the adjournment of the bail application by the High Court of alleged members of a group known as the People’s Redemption Army, armed men in police uniform surrounded the Registry, prevented those released on bail from leaving and re-arrested them. Some of the defendants, a journalist and one counsel, who subsequently required medical treatment, were reported to have been mistreated.
In November 2005, a group of armed security operatives reportedly belonging to a specialized anti-terrorist unit invaded the High Court during proceedings related to the same case, also in an attempt to intimidate and threaten judges and lawyers, and to disrupt judicial proceedings, OHCHR Uganda said.
The office “unequivocally condemns the interference by armed security forces with the independence of the Judiciary, contrary to the Constitution and international human rights principles, which undermines the rule of law and administration of justice in Uganda,” the statement added.
It called on Government authorities to take all necessary measures to prevent any further interference with the independence of the judiciary, to respect judicial decisions taken by the judiciary, and ensure that all individuals responsible for the violations of human rights and national law by undermining the independence of the judiciary be held fully accountable.
The office also welcomed the announcement by President Yoweri Museveni that an investigation into the incident is to be undertaken, and it urged that the results be made public without delay.