1 June 2011

East Africa: Nation Sued At EA Court Over Protests Clampdown

Arusha/Kampala — Lawyers from the East African region have sued the Uganda government, accusing its security agencies of human rights violations and breach of the Constitution during the recent walk-to-work demonstrations.

The East Africa Law Society sued the Ugandan authorities at the East African Court of Justice in Arusha, Tanzania, in a case filed yesterday evening by the Vice President of the regional law body, Mr Aggrey Mwamu.

The suit was presented to the Office of the EACJ Registrar in Arusha shortly before 5pm yesterday after all paperwork formalities were completed.

The Ugandan government is accused of gross violations of human rights of its people who were engaged in walk-to-work protests that swept the country starting April this year, leading to deaths of at least 10 individuals, several injuries and destruction of property.

EALS alleges that Ugandan security forces were behind arbitrary arrests and killing of innocent people during the chaos "in violation of the very basic tenets of human rights", which guarantees them freedom of speech and movement, among others.

Briefing the media before the case was formally filed at the court on Moshi Road, Mr Mwamu said the regional law society was empowered to raise its voice over matters pertaining to human rights violations.

Empowered agency

"The Memorandum of Articles empowers the society to intervene in matters pertaining to human rights violations and arrest the situation before it goes out of hand," he told reporters at the court's premises. Also sued was the East African Community (EAC), whose secretary general was accused of remaining "quiet" despite the deteriorating situation in Uganda.

Mr Mwamu argued that the arbitrary arrests, beatings of people and the killings that followed were against the EAC Treaty articles and clauses on good governance and adherence to human rights as agreed upon by all the five partner states. "As the atrocities were committed in Uganda, neither the EAC secretary general nor any of the five members of the Community raised concern. They all kept quiet...this is against the EAC Treaty," he said.

The suit also included a retention case against the Kenyan government for what EALS described as unconstitutional extradition of Kenyan citizens to Uganda to face charges related to the terrorist activities in Kampala in July 2010.

The EALS officials charged that the Kenyans were handed over to the Ugandan authorities without any legal procedures taken. These included the extradition formalities that are required to transfer a suspect to another country.

"The Kenyan citizens were handed over in a casual manner. This was also inconsistent with the Kenya Constitution. To make matters worse, the EAC boss did nothing to remind the partner states on the anomaly," he said.

The third case within the suit was on the glaring contradictions between the EAC Common Market Protocol and the Treaty that established EAC "which we feel must be sufficiently addressed before things get out of hand".

Summons for govt

Officials of EACJ said after the case has been filed, summons would be served to the respective governments within 14 days. Thereafter, the court would convene a pre-trial conference to determine when the cases are to be heard.

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