The International Crimes Division of the High Court in Kampala has scheduled June 12th, 2023, as the date to hear an application filed by Kawempe North MP Muhammad Ssegirinya and his Makindye West counterpart Allan Ssewanyana to halt their trial on terrorism-related charges.
In 2021, Ssewanyana and Ssegirinya, along with four others, were indicted on charges of terrorism, murder, and attempted murder in connection with the machete killings that occurred in the greater Masaka district. Over 20 people lost their lives, and many others were injured during the wave of attacks. While the group was committed to the International Crimes Division of the High Court, the MPs’ files were split, and one was committed for trial before the Masaka High Court due to additional murder charges against them.
On Monday, the MPs and the other four accused were expected to appear before the International Crimes Division Court. However, Lady Justice Alice Komuhangi Khaukha, who was presiding over the case, was absent due to illness. As a result, the case was adjourned until June 12th, 2023, when the judge will be available. During the adjournment, the Registrar of the International Crimes Division, Stella Atingu, informed the parties that the MPs’ application to halt the trial pending the determination of their constitutional petition would also be heard on the same day.
In February 2023, Ssegirinya and Ssewanyana filed a constitutional petition challenging their trial on separate files in different courts, alleging abuse of the court process and political persecution. They subsequently filed an application in the International Crimes Division to halt the trial until the constitutional petition is decided. In their application, the legislators argue that they requested the consolidation of their two cases, which was dismissed, and no steps have been taken by the Director of Public Prosecutions (DPP) to initiate the trial.
They claim that the actions of the DPP are inconsistent and in violation of the Constitution, which prompted them to file a constitutional petition. The legislators contend that halting the trial is necessary because they are in the preliminary stages, and they fear being convicted before their constitutional petition is resolved.
“That there is a serious threat of conviction and I am in fear that immediately after the trial, the court may commence conviction against me by way of imprisonment before the determination of the intended constitutional petition thereby rendering it nugatory and useless,” said Ssewanyana.
The legislators’ lawyer, Samuel Muyizzi Mulindwa, argues that their application was filed promptly and without undue delay, and therefore, it should be granted to halt the trial.
It is worth noting that last month, Lawyer Male Mabirizi withdrew a similar application he had filed in the International Crimes Division, citing bias, lack of transparency, and unequal treatment by pretrial Judge Alice Komuhangi.
In his withdrawal letter dated April 25th, 2023, Mabirizi wrote, “It is better that a man should not be brought to Justice at all than that Justice should be done to him without the public being given the opportunity of seeing it done.”