Monday, 30 December 2013

Amin: Absence of the rule of law


As chariman of Defence Council, Amin signed a number of decrees that overturned the rule of law.  All political institutions, such as parliament, district, or town councils, were suspended after the military coup d'etat in 1971.  All political activities were banned: the president ruled by decree.  Citizens had no political or constitutional rights.  The secutiry forces could arrest people without warrant and detain them for as long as they wished.  But they were immuned from prosecution.  They were allowed to use any force they saw fit in arresting and preventing the escape of anyone suspected of being a kondo.  In practice, the soldiers were given the right to "shoot to kill".  Military Tribunals, formerly intended to handle cases involving military discipline in the army, were given the power to try civilians as well as extra powers to try suspected subversive elements.  Many members of the tribunals had no legal training and were illiterate.  As the economy began to decay, tough decrees were aimed at "economic crimes" such as overcharging, hoarding, smuggling, corruption, fraud, illegal currency sale, diversion of essential goods to "unscheduled destinations," and so on.  Judges who were supposed to arbitrate in civil conflicts within the legal bounds of the law were intimidated.  Chief Justice and former Democratic Party leader Ben Kiwanuka was murdered by government agents who abducted him from the High Court on 21 September 1972.  Amin had publicly criticized his independent judgment, referring to him as a prominent "Masaka Citizen" with a big job in whom the government had lost confidence.......

The president of the Industrial Courts Raphael Sebugwaawo Amooti, was killed by State Research Bureau officers on 13th March 1978.

Court verdicts were not respected by the security forces.  Any lawyer who successfully defended a client in whom security men were interested was in trouble.  Not onliy was the verdict ignored by the security forces but the lawyer could also be arrested.  Enos Sebunnya is a case in point.  In 1973 he successfully defended a businessman, Samson Ddungu, who was acquitted against the wishes of a security man who had an interest in Ddungu's business.  Ddungu was shot dead and Enos Sebunnya was arrested and trotured.  he later left the country and went to live in Canada.

"Disappearances" were the most visible manifestation of the absence of rule of law.  People were arrested or abducted and killed outside established legal structures.  The Government became the major law breaker in the country and bad elements in society followed.

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