Court reinstates Besigye’s petition against preventive arrest, admits error in dismissing the case

Dr Kizza Besigye in court
Dr Kizza Besigye in court

Kampala, Uganda | URN | The Constitutional Court has admitted it errored and has reinstated a petition in which Dr Kizza Besigye wanted a charge of preventive arrest repealed from the Police Act.

The five-member panel of Justices led by Fredrick Egonda-Ntende on Thursday reinstated the nine-year-old petition which they had dismissed two weeks ago after discovering that it was erroneously dismissed.

On October 5, 2020, five Constitutional Court Justices dismissed Besigye’s 2011 petition after his lawyer A.F. Mpanga and himself allegedly failed to turn up in court for its hearing.

Other Justices on the panel are: Elizabeth Musoke, Cheborion Barishaki, Muzamiru Kibeedi and Irene Mulyagonja.

However, days later, Besigye’s lawyers filed another application seeking for its reinstatement on grounds that they had been given a hearing date of October 26, 2020 and there is no way they could have turned up on October 5, 2020.

However on Thursday 22nd when the matter came up to court, Besigye through his lawyers Ernest Kalibala and Fredrick Mpanga told the Justices to reinstate the petition.

The Justices later asked the Attorney General’s representative Jimmy Oburu Odoi if he has objections to the request by Besigye’s lawyers.

But Oburu told the Justices that there is no way how he could object to the application when he knows that the error was done by the courts.

The Constitutional Court registrar had given Besigye’s lawyers a hearing notice which had a typing error on the dates requiring them to come on October 26 when actually the case was scheduled for October 5 2020.

As such, the Justices did not say much in the open court apart from reinstating the petition as requested.

After its reinstatement, the Justices asked the parties to put in written submissions in their main petition such that they can go ahead and look at the merits and its demerits before giving their judgement which will be on notice .

Besigye filed his petition in question on October 28, 2011 through his lawyers of A.F Mpanga, ten days after he had been arrested during the protests of Walk to Work and put under house arrest under what the police termed as preventive arrest.

The protests in question started on April 11, 2011 by Activists for Change (A4C) and other opposition politicians who were protesting the high commodity and fuel prices in the country.

In the aftermath, Besigye was on October 18, 2011, reportedly arrested on the orders of the then Regional Police Commander for Kampala North, Stephen Tanui, a few meters from his home as he started walking to Najjanankumbi for official political duties.

According to the evidence before court, Besigye was put on a police pickup and taken to Kasangati police station from where they told him that he was under preventive arrest. He was reportedly taken back to his home where he found dozens of security officers led by the then Rapid Response Unit officer Joel Aguma who also put him under house arrest.

Following this, Besigye challenged section 24 of the Police Act which gives police powers to arrest anybody who is about to commit a crime against himself or the public.

He also challenged section 26 of the Criminal Procedure Act which also gives police similar powers saying that these sections contravene his constitutional right to liberty, freedom of conscience, expression and assembly. He asked court to declare the said sections unconstitutional.

Speaking to this publication at the Constitutional Court on Thursday 22, October 2020, Dr Besigye said that to date, he still wonders how the Constitutional Court Justices came to sit and dismiss his petition in the presence of Attorney General’s representatives on a day that was never communicated to him and his lawyers.

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After the 2016 presidential elections in which he stood and like on previous three occasions he came second, Besigye swore himself in as President of Uganda and was promptly charged with treason.

However, in 2019, when Besigye was seeking the scrapping of the offence of unlawful assembly, Constitutional Court Justice Kenneth Kakuru declined to grant his petition and advised him to seek remedies in his own courts or the judge who swore him in as President.