Wednesday, June 29, 2011

David Kato: Lawyer Demands Speedy Trial in Letter to High Court Registrar

Six months after the murder of gay rights activist, David Kato, a Ugandan lawyer has written to the Registrar of the High Court demanding a speedy trial.

Mr Francis Onyango, Kato’s lawyer, told Behind the Mask on Thursday June 23, that [if the case took any longer] prosecution witnesses to the case were likely to forget the sequence of events or relocate to other areas in the country. He explained that he had chosen to write to the Registrar in Jinja town because the Mukono High Court where the case is expected to be heard is under the Jinja High Court jurisdiction registry.

Mr Onyango said, the Registrar should take into account the circumstances surrounding Mr. Kato’s death and fix the hearing in the next Criminal season of the high court criminal session. It is not known when the criminal session will begin, although it had earlier been anticipated to start in April this year.

The main suspect, Mr Nsubuga Sydney was charged with Mr Kato’s murder, which is thought to have taken place at Kato’s home in Mukono district, about 25 km east of Kampala.

Judicial officers, who spoke on condition of anonymity because they are not allowed to make media statements, said there was a back log of election petitions in Uganda’s country court systems resulting from February’s General Election and that these were overwhelming Uganda’s court system.

However, other lawyers said it was most likely the criminal court season would begin in July when courts receive a financial disbursement at the beginning of the government’s fiscal year. Courts need money from government to facilitate witnesses coming to court.

"This (the delay in hearings) will occasion a miscarriage of Justice as the key witnesses will be unavailable to testify,” Mr Onyango said in a letter to the Registrar.

Mr Nsubuga Sydney, Alias Enoch, was recently committed to the High Court from a lower magistrate’s court to begin hearings of the case.

Under Uganda’s Constitution, capital offenders including rape, defilement and rape suspects are not allowed to enter into any plea before magistrates, because the High Court is the only institution with Jurisdiction to try them.

However, legal experts note that it could take four to five years, before the suspect’s trial is completed. On average, suspected criminals in capital spend an average of about two and half years awaiting trial.

Read the rest here.

[If an item is not written by an IRMA member, it should not be construed that IRMA has taken a position on the article's content, whether in support or in opposition.]

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