The Ugandan government has rejected the opposition’s request to transfer Ugandan citizens from military courts to civilian courts.
This decision has sparked criticism from human rights committees and opposition members who argue that it goes against the principles of fairness and the constitution. They claim that the trials are unjust and unconstitutional, calling for the release of those affected and their transfer to regular courts.
Yesterday, the opposition faction in parliament, headed by the leader of the opposition, Mathias Mpuuga Nsamba, presented a petition to the plenary. The request focused on the release and liberation of all supporters affiliated with the National Unity Platform (NUP) who had been detained and taken into custody by security entities based on directives from the Ugandan government.
Nevertheless, the government staunchly opposed the opposition’s plea to retract the individuals implicated, who had been brought before the court-martial.
A group of 40 or more individuals affiliated with the National Unity Platform, including Olivia Lutaaya, who have been subjected to court martial proceedings since 2021, are expected to be released. The charges against them remain unclear.
Interrogating citizens in court martial has been criticized by human rights organizations, who argue that this practice is unlawful. These advocates assert that such actions constitute oppression and other forms of injustice. They have reminded the government that these issues were central reasons for the NRA movement taking to the bush in 1980. The movement aimed to restore peace and stability in Uganda.
Dr. Sarah Bireete, a political advocate and human rights activist, expresses concern over the disparity in the treatment of individuals arrested by security forces. She finds it disheartening that those responsible for the tragic incident of mass killings of tourists on the outskirts of Queen Elizabeth National Park are tried in civilian courts, while citizens apprehended by security organs undergo detention and interrogation in the court martial. This inconsistency, she argues, reflects an unfair and unjust system.
“Sarah Bireete expressed concern about the court martial of Sylivia Lutaaya and other NUP supporters who are being prosecuted. She emphasized that if they face additional charges, they should be tried in civilian court. Bireete pointed out the contrast with the case of ADF leader Jamir Mukulu, who is facing charges in a civilian court despite being a rebel and a terrorist. According to her, it is unjust and impractical for NUP supporters, who merely demonstrated their affection for their president, to be tried in a military court martial.”
The Minister of Internal Affairs in Uganda, Gen Severino Kahinda Otafire, emphasized that individuals involved in civil unrest, categorized as rebels or terrorists, were apprehended without possessing weaponry.
He clarified that those arrested did not claim to be armed, leading them to face proceedings in civilian courts. According to Otafire, the decision to take someone to court depends on the nature of the charges, with individuals caught with weapons like grenades or machine guns directed to face court martial, while those apprehended for other offenses are dealt with in civil courts.
He claimed that Jamil Mukulu escaped being labeled a terrorist due to the absence of weapons; he was not in possession of any firearms. However, individuals caught with military items are subject to court-martial proceedings.
The opposition continues to call for the complete release of NUP supporters who were primarily apprehended by the police and military personnel.