12 April 2017

Uganda: Dr Nyanzi Fights Doctors to Stop Medical Examination

Kampala — A lawyer and a relative of the remanded Dr Stella Nyanzi yesterday accused the authorities at Luzira prison of attempting to conduct a medical examination on her without her consent or court order, an attempt they said she fought off.

Dr Nyanzi, a social researcher at Makerere University, was on Monday charged with two offences resulting from her acerbic criticism on Facebook of President Museveni and his wife Janet Museveni, who is also the Minister of Education.

Buganda Road Court Chief Magistrate James Ereemye remanded Dr Nyanzi until April 25 pending determination of the State's application to subject the accused to a mental test as the State had requested.

But a day into her remand, Mr Isaac Ssemakadde, one of Dr Nyanzi's lawyers, told Daily Monitor that two men, one of whom Dr Nyanzi identified as a psychiatric doctor from Butabika Mental Hospital, tried to subject her to an examination.

"This was an egregious affront on her rights because no inmate on remand may be subject to a medical examination without her consent or court order," Mr Ssemakadde said.

Routine procedure

Prisons spokesperson Frank Baine, however, said what happened or was to happen to Dr Nyanzi was just a routine procedure.

"All I know is that like any other inmate, Dr Stella Nyanzi was subjected to a general medical test by our doctors to ascertain if she has any ailment," Mr Baine said. "This happens to every inmate for easy management during their stay."

Mr Ssemakadde, however, said there is no mandatory requirement to examine inmates on remand to medical examination.

"Ask anyone who has been remanded to Luzira whether they were subjected to a medical examination on arrival," Mr Ssemakadde said.

He said a medical examination can only be carried out on an inmate is one which "is necessary and called for under the circumstances."

Mr Ssemakedde said Dr Nyanzi resisted the examination, demanding that four conditions had to be fulfilled before the examination may take place.

The conditions, the lawyer said, are the presence of a court order, a family representative, her lawyer and her personal physician.

Even in cases where an inmate has to be examined, Mr Ssemakadde argued, the examination has to be conducted by the superintendent of Luzira prison medical facility and "not by someone from Butabika hospital".

Dr Nyanzi's lawyers led by Mr Nicholas Opio on Monday vehemently fought off the State's application to have Dr Nyanzi undergo a mental examination, arguing that the prosecution had just ambushed them with the application and had not served it on them before coming to court.

Mr Opio said they had been "ambushed" with the application.

The prosecution led by Mr Jonathan Muwaganya argued, basing on "observation" of Dr Nyanzi by the investigating police officer, that a medical examination needed to be conducted before she took plea in the case. The police officer claimed to have reason to believe that Dr Nyanzi had a mental problem.

The defence team fought the application, urging the trial magistrate to ask the Dr Nyanzi whether she understood the charges brought against her, in which case they argued it would be proved that she is sane and fit to undergo trial. The defence further requested for more time to [prepare their response to the application since they had been "ambushed".

The magistrate set April 25 for the defence to substantively respond to the application and called on Dr Nyanzi to plead to the charges, both of which she denied, before remanding her till then.

While taking plea, Dr Nyanzi, who was in defiant mood, said she was "ready to take on the mantle of insanity" to challenge President Museveni's government, which she said has "raped" the country.

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