Election Petition: Chief Justice Warns Media on ‘Spinning’

The Supreme Court has Monday given green light to  law dons to act as friends of Court (Amicus Curiae) in the election petition of former presidential candidate Amama Mbabazi.

But the same court rejected a request by the Civil Society Organisations on grounds they lacked the necessary expertise to bring to court as election observers.

In a ruling read by Justice Lillian Tibatemwa, dosage information pills the highest court in the land ordered Makerere law dons to file briefs on points of law and proposals for resolution but not evidence.

Justice  Tibatemwa  said that amicus curiae is increasingly being entrenched in the justice system both in domestic and international tribunals therefore court found it essential.

She further stated that the East African Court of Justice in which Uganda is a party has also considered such applications in previous cases.

“According to Article 126 Clause 1, judicial power is derived from people and exercised by court on behalf of the people. The applicant has proven record in human rights, constitutional law and they are well researched legal scholars”

Much as the court questioned the applicants’ neutrality as required of friends of court, Justice Tibatemwa said this is not the only determining factor.

“Court has realized that the applicant raises points of law that would benefit it in reaching a final ruling. The applicants have satisfied the requirements and are ordered to file a written brief before March 17

The written brief will be strictly limited to the law and include the applicants’ proposals on electoral reforms as well as judicial remedies to prevent the re-occurence of non implementation of court recommendations cited in previous petitiions.

President Museveni’s lawyers this past weekend urged the Supreme Court to grant amicus curiae to the 9 law lectures seeking to join in the petition in which Hon Mbabazi is challenging the 2016 election results.

The applicants include; Oloka Onyango, Sylivia Tamale, Christopher Mbazira, Ronald Naluwairo, Rose Nakeyi, Busingye Kabumba, Daniel Ruhweza, Kakungulu Mayambala and Daniel Ngabirano.

All respondents to the petition; Museveni, Electoral Commission and the Attorney General submitted in consensus against court’s granting of amicus citing partialities of some of the applicants.

“I pray that the applicants are not allowed the amicus because they are not friends of the court as they claim. The applicants are biased against the 3rd respondent for failure to make electoral reforms,” said Mwesigwa Rukutana the lead counsel to the petition.

However, in her ruling today, Tibatemwa said, “While impartiality is key, it is not the only issue in determining amicus curiae.”

The judge emphasised that court would not allow the law experts to over step their boundaries.

The court directed law dons have been ordered to limit their brief on legal proposals on electoral reforms and judicial remedies.

However, the third application by civil society actors who were involved in observing elections has been rejected by court citing insufficient requirements.
Court ruled that the applicants dwelt entirely on their expertise in election observing instead of legal expetise.

“The application cites the experience of Crispy Kaheru in observing as an individual but there’s no evidence of other observers’ experience. Court thereby denies amicus curiae to the third applicant on grounds of lacking requirements,” ruled Justice Stella Amachi Lamoko.

Commenting on the ruling, FIDA’s Executive Director Irene Ovonji said they appreciated that court considered one of the application.

“In the ruling, court also appreciated the role of observers’ reports in informing its decisions. Today’s event is a positive highlight given that court has showed that the petition is for the interest of Ugandans,” Ovonji told journalists.

The Chief Justice Bart Katureebe has warned the media fraternity about using their freedom in ways that are not tolerable.

The warning followed a complaint raised by Deputy Attorney General Mwesigwa Rukutana who cited 2 cases in which he said he felt the media were not acting objectively.

“The media recently indicated that the petitioner (Mbabazi) had won round one of the petition which was wrong, ambulance “Rukutana told court.

He added that Sunday’s Daily Monitor carried an article authored by retired judge Prof. George Kanyeihamba and titled ‘Ghosts of previous elections may haunt Supreme Court’ which he said was biased.
“The retired Supreme Court judge’s article was speculative and intended to arouse anxiety, ” Rukutana argued.

He asked court to do something to what he termed as a constant pattern suggestive that the court had not handled well the presidential election petition.

In response, the Chief Justice warned journalists against breaching their code of conduct, noting that they were doing an injustice to the public.

“We allowed live coverage so that the truth comes out but if you continue to spin, we will ask the media council to come in,” Katureebe warned.

“You should not write in a way as if trying to intimidate us because you will not succeed.”


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