Uganda

Landmark Ugandan decision highlights judicial accountability

TWO crucial judicial principles, independence and accountability, have clashed with each other in a landmark judgment by Uganda’s highest court. Unusually, the case produced seven separate decisions, one a dissenting judgment – and it has also sparked strong criticism from outside the court. The case concerned the right of the judicial disciplinary body to charge a registrar, someone who exercises judicial powers in Uganda, with misconduct in relation to an action she took in the course of her judicial duties.

The case begins in 2009 when deputy registrar Dr Gladys Kisekka issued a warrant for the attachment of certain property following a default judgment. A few months later she received a letter from a law firm, protesting that some of the land scheduled for attachment belonged to their client, and not to the judgment debtor in the case.

Kisekka immediately recalled the warrant in respect of the disputed property and copied her letter recalling the warrant to all the parties.

Ugandan judge slashes “ridiculously” high legal costs in public interest case

AS African jurisdictions embrace powerful, forward-looking constitutions and the possibility of litigation to protect rights, one question will inevitably arise: how should a court manage the question of legal costs in such litigation? An important new decision from the constitutional court of Uganda lays down clear guidelines. Carmel Rickard writes that the dispute over legal costs in this case followed a high-profile challenge to parliament’s decision that corruption allegations against leading members of government should be investigated.  

UGANDAN advocate Twinobusigye Severino was in parliament the day a row broke out over claims of bribery in the oil sector. He heard hecklers calling government ministers “thieves” and “thugs”, and he listened to an MP saying – to great applause – that if he had Idi Amin’s powers he would publicly execute those accused of corruption. When those same angry hecklers then voted to set up an inquiry into the alleged corruption, Severino went to court with a constitutional petition. 

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