The Uganda Law Society has noted with concern the recent comments on the right to bail in Uganda. Several news outlets have reported a call for review of the manner in which the courts apply the right to bail. There has been a protest against court decisions granting bail in certain capital offences, and the remark that the Constitution of Uganda should be amended to remove bail in capital offences. The suggestions have generated much debate and sentiment from the wider sections of the public.
Considered in their depth, the views fronted have far reaching implications. The ULS is therefore concerned with these highly controversial statements and calls for calm.
In lieu of the above, the ULS opines that:
a) TheULSrecognizestheconcernforthevictimsofviolentcrimeandothercapitaloffenses and empathizes with them. The ULS’ views expressed in this statement are not in any way intended to ignore or lighten the gravity of these challenges.
b) Amending the Constitution to remove the grant of bail in any offence charged would go against clearly set international human rights and state obligations which Uganda subscribes to.
c) Removingtherighttoseekbailwillwaterdownthepresumptionofinnocencewhichisthe cardinal principle of our criminal law and will ultimately deprive a person charged with a criminal offence of the right to personal liberty, contrary to Article 28 of the 1995 Constitution of Uganda. It will be akin to changing the legal regime by presuming a person is guilty before he or she is proved or pleads guilty.
d) The rights of the individual to personal liberty and freedom must be balanced at all times against the compelling interests of the state to enforce law and order for the citizens to have confidence in the criminal justice system.
e) The constitutional legal regime on the right to seeking and obtaining bail should be maintained and instead state institutions such as the Police and Office of Director of Public Prosecutions be strengthened to ensure that justice is administered without undue delay.
This may be done, by, among other critical ways, ensuring that the relevant agencies carry out thorough investigations in criminal matters before committing to arrest a suspect.
f) Therighttofairhearingshouldbestrictlyobservedbythestateinthedeterminationofcivil rights and obligations, or a person charged with a criminal offence be entitled to a fair, speedy trial before an independent and impartial court or tribunal established by law as provided for under Article 28 of the 1995 Constitution of Uganda.
The Uganda Law Society remains committed to assisting the Government in all matters affecting legislation and the administration and practice of law in the country in accordance with its mandate enshrined in Uganda Law Society Act, Cap 276 Laws of Uganda.
FOR GOD AND MY COUNTRY