Kampala, 08th/Feb/2012; The Uganda Human Rights Commission has started hearing of a case filed by journalists five years ago. Human Rights Network for Journalists-Uganda (HRNJ-Uganda) petitioned the Uganda Human Rights Commission alleging violations of freedoms and rights by security operatives during the infamous High Court siege in a scuffle to re-arrest the People’s Redemption Army (PRA) suspects on 1st March 2007.
The journalists including the HRNJ-Uganda Programme Coordinator, Geoffrey Wokulira Ssebaggala, Sam Kayiwa a journalist with Power FM and Robert Ssempala the former HRNJ-Uganda board chairperson accused the security personnel including the army, black mambas and the police of beatings, harassment, confiscation of journalistic equipment like recorders, phones and cameras, and release of dogs on them while covering the event. They were forcefully evicted from the court premises and restricted from filming or recording the proceedings at court.
The hearing was presided over by Commissioner Fauzat Mariam Wangadia. This follows an earlier hearing which failed to take off on the 9th/December/2011 under unclear circumstances.
The State attorney Daniel Gantugo denied liability and raised a preliminary objection, praying for a dismissal of the case on grounds that HRNJ-Uganda, the complainant failed to state that it was bringing the action on behalf of a stated number of persons named in the complaint, and that the organization has no cause of action against the Attorney General since the violations were never committed against HRNJ-Uganda.
HRNJ-Uganda lawyer Catherine Anite argued that the case on violations against these journalists is sustainable since it was tabled before the commission by a duly registered organization under Article 50(2) of the Constitution, and that it was upon the Commission to carry out thorough investigations as mandated by the Constitution and advise the complainants accordingly. She contended that substantive justice should be administered without undue regard to technicalities.
Commissioner Wangadia adjourned the hearing and a ruling on the state’s preliminary objection will be delivered on notice.
“This is justice long overdue. We pray that this matter be handled justly and expeditiously “Said the HRNJ-Uganda Programme coordinator Wokulira Ssebaggala.