BY ATUHAIRWE AGRACE
For the first time in the Uganda courts of justice, the domesticated International Criminal Court Rules will be used during the trial of about thirty two (32) suspects accused of masterminding the murders/assassinations of Muslim clerics in the country between December 2014 and June 2015. The Rules touch on trial of crimes against humanity, international crimes and genocide.
In this landmark trial, court process will be conducted according to the international laws at the time when the country and several others on the bloc are contemplating withdrawal from the international body.
In 2010, Uganda domesticated the International Criminal Court Rules into law and they are cited as the International Criminal Court Act, 2010. The Rules contained in the Judicature High Court International Crimes Division Rules 2016, formulated by a committee chaired by the current Chief Justice, Bart Katureebe will determine the fate of the accused persons in this highly anticipated trial.
One judge will handle the conferencing schedule and the pre-trial in considering that the charges instituted against the accused are substantial to proceed to trial. During this stage, court will examine the evidence adduced by the prosecution and determine whether it can sustain a trial, enough to put the accused to defence.
In this case, the accused have been on remand for almost two (2) years and this twist in the trial certainly sets a precedent for the use of the ICC rules in a domestic setting.
One important thing is likely to also set precedence in the country’s legal process: the prosecution intends to (and hopefully it does) formally apply for witness protection, which issue has been a concern in criminal matters. Many witnesses in criminal trials have either disappeared or refused to testify against accused persons for fear of endangering their lives. It is true that the government is overwhelmed by the minute details of ensuring witness protection and thus has been limited in extending this service to willing witnesses.
This case is surely going to be an intriguing one for the legal fraternity, starting 15th August, 2016 when the conferencing has been adjourned.
This article was originally written for Bitala & Co. Advocates’ weekly law newsletter, The Deuteronomy