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Stella Nyanzi Challenges Law on Mental Status

Dr Stella Nyanzi in court on Thursday

Makerere University’s Dr. Stella Nyanzi has filed an application challenging the legality of the Mental Treatment Act.

The controversial academician was charged with offences including Cyber Harassment (contrary to Section 24 of the Computer Misuse Act of 2011) and Offensive Communication (contrary to Section 25 of the same Act), page all committed against President Museveni using   Facebook, buy a social media platform.

The state last month quoting the 1938 Mental Treatment Act requested the Buganda Road court to have Nyanzi’s mental status checked before hearing of the case.

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“She has a psychiatric case and if not attended to, clinic it would lead to continued injury or reputation damage of her victims and the general public,” State prosecutor Jonathan Muwaganya told court.

However, on Thursday, Nyanzi’s lawyers led by Peter Walubiri told Buganda road Chief Magistrate,  James Eremye  Mawanda that they had filed a  petition in  the Constitutional Court against the Attorney General challenging provisions in the 1938 Act.

They also asked Buganda road court to halt proceedings in the case of the Makerere scholar until their petition to the Constitutional court is disposed of.

According to the petition filed on May 24,  Dr.Nyanzi says some sections of the Mental Treatment Act are in contravention of articles and objectives of the 1995 constitution.

Dr.Nyanzi's lawyers  Peter Walubiri (C),Isaac Ssemakadde (L) and Eron Kiiza.

Dr.Nyanzi’s lawyers Peter Walubiri (C),Isaac Ssemakadde (L) and Eron Kiiza.

“The DPP subverted his role as provided by the constitution by using a strange procedure not known under the law to bring proceedings under the Mental Treatment Act against me since there was no evidence to support the criminal charges against me,” Nyanzi says in her petition.

She says that the Act is vague and outdated in determining the unsoundness of one’s mind before declaring mentally incapable.

Dr. Nyanzi also notes that the act as quoted by the state creates irreparable stigma to suspected persons under the act which creates a negative effect on one’s dignity, integrity and privacy in society.

“I have suffered great stigma, loss of dignity and reputation both in my social and professional   life,” she says in the petition before asking that the 1938 Act cannot apply to her.

Buganda road court Chief Magistrate Eremye Mawanda adjourned the case to June 7th when the court will listen to arguments from both sides on  halting  the case  until  the petition to Constitutional court is disposed of.

 

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