Court name
HC: Civil Division (Uganda)
Judgment date
18 December 2018

Agasiirwe Karuhanga v Attorney General (Miscellaneous Cause-2018/3) [2018] UGHCCD 82 (18 December 2018);

Cite this case
[2018] UGHCCD 82
Coram
Wolayo, J

IN THE HIGH COURT OF UGANDA AT KAMPALA

CIVIL DIVISION

MISC CAUSE NO. 3 OF 2018

NICKSON AGASIIRWE KARUHANGA…………………….APPLICANT

AND

ATTORNEY GENERAL………………………………………….RESPONDENT

BEFORE HON. LADY JUSTICE H. WOLAYO

RULING

The applicant  brought a motion under articles 50(1) and article 28(1) of the Constitution , sections 98 and 33 of the Judicature Act and order 52 rr 1 and 3 of the CPR for the following orders:

  1. A declaration the UPDF unit Disciplinary Committee and General Court Martial (GCM) has no jurisdiction to try the applicant for the offence disclosed in the charge sheet for CR. Case . No. UPDF /GCM/MP/ 019/2017 AND 24 /17.
  2. A permanent injunction restraining the respondent , its agents, servants and all those acting on behalf of the respondent from continuing with the prosecution of the applicant in any UPDF Tribunal for the offence disclosed in the charge sheet.
  3. The applicant be released from remand forthwith.
  4. Compensation be ordered for the violation of the applicant’s right to a fair hearing and freedom from personal liberty.
  5. Costs be provided for.

The motion was supported by affidavits in support and rejoinder of the applicant.

The respondent opposed the motion and relied on an affidavit in reply of Allan Mukama.

Both counsel filed written submissions that I have carefully considered.

 

 

The applicant’s case

It was  the applicant’s case he was arrested on 24th October 2017 and detained at the Chieftaincy of Military Intelligence  and on 27th October 2017, together with eight others, he was arraigned before a military tribunal in Makindye and charged .

It was further  the applicant’s case that the charge sheet is defective in form since it does not disclose that the applicant is a  prudent member of the Uganda Police entitled to a firearm and other defense artillery . Furthermore, it was the applicant’s case  had  it been disclosed that he possesses a firearm certificate for his armoury issued by the Chief licensing Officer , he would not fall within the jurisdiction of the GCM .Para 8a,b,c  of his affidavit in support refers.

According to the applicant, his right to a fair hearing under article 28 is being violated on account of the misconceived charges and bias of  the GCM .

Furthermore,  that  on 24.10.2017, the date he allegedly committed the offences, he had already reported to CMI yet it was alleged he was found in unlawful possession of ammunition to wit, 4 pieces of tortoise  grenades.

That  the charges preferred are unreasonable and brought in bad faith as the police force has not complained of the alleged unlawful possession of arms and related equipment.

Lastly, that he  was out of the country prior to being charged in the GCM.

In summary, the applicant’s case is that the charge of being in possession of tortoise grenade is misconceived and therefore his right to a fair hearing is being violated.

The respondent’s case

It was the respondent’s case is that the applicant was lawfully charged and detained by the GCM.

Three issues were agreed upon in the joint scheduling memorandum.

  1. Whether this court has jurisdiction to hear the present application
  2. Whether the GCM has jurisdiction to try the applicant.
  3. Remedies.

Whether this court has jurisdiction to hear the present application

While counsel for the applicant submitted this court has jurisdiction as enforcement of human rights under article 50 is peculiar to the High Court, counsel for the respondent submitted that this court lacked jurisdiction because the charge sheet clearly states  the applicant was found in possession of firearms and ammunitions.

I have previously considered this issue in  HCMC. No. 26 of 2017 Oola v AG and I found that the Constitution confers jurisdiction on  competent courts  to enforce violations of fundamental human rights under article 50 and therefore this court  has  jurisdiction to hear and determine this application.   

Whether the GCM has jurisdiction to try the applicant

It is not disputed that the applicant , a police officer,  was charged with eight others in the GCM with two counts :

Count one: Kidnappingc/s 242 of the Penal Code Act Cap 120

Particulars of the offence

Joel Aguma, Nixon Agasirwe Karuhanga and seven others around 25th October 2013 at Kamengo in Mpigi district  while in possession of firearms and grenades ordinarily a monopoly of the Defence Forces conveyed one Kalemera Mutabazi Joel  without his consent to the Republic of Rwanda.

Count two: Kidnapping with intent c/s 242 of the Penal Code Act

Particulars of the charge are the same as in count one save the person who was conveyed against his will is Kalemera Jackson alias Ndinga.

In their submissions , both counsel invoked section 119 of the UPDF Act 2005 in support of their respective  positions.

Counsel for the applicant submitted that  I previously held in Oola v AG  HCMC. 26 of 2017 that  section 119 applies to persons subject to military law and person not otherwise subject to military law. In Oola V AG, the applicant was not a military officer nor was he brought under the operation of section 119  for the reason that he had been charged alone with offences of Treachery c/s 129 of the UPDF Act   and Murder c/s 188 of the Penal Code Act  yet he could only be charged with these offences if he had been charged jointly with persons subject to military law.   In that case, I considered section 119 (1) (g) of the UPDF Act but I did not have to consider section 119( 1) (h) which is a stand alone  pre –requisite for a civilian to qualify to be charged in the GCM.

I agree with counsel for the applicant   he  is a police officer and therefore entitled to  carry firearms as he is mandated under section 4 ( f) of the Police Act cap. 303 to perform services of a military force but  the thrust of counsel for the respondent’s submissions is that the applicant was in possession of tortoise grenades during the commission of the offence of Kidnapping c/s  242 of the Penal  Code Act  which brings him within the ambit of section 119 ( 1) (h) of the UPDF Act.

The Supreme Court precedent of Namugerwa Hadijah v AG  SCCA No. 4 of 2012 is instructive in this regard. In that case, the person  who was the subject of the appeal was a civilian and had been charged in the GCM with Robbery during which  robbery he  used a pistol ordinarily the monopoly of the UPDF  . The Supreme Court held that the person was lawfully charged in the GCM because being in possession of a pistol while a civilian brought him within the ambit of section 119 ( 1) (h) of the UPDF. 

Apart from the Supreme court precedent , counsel for the respondent relied on the dictionary meaning of ‘grenade’  as a small bomb which  brings it within  within the definition of ‘war materials’ in section 2 of the UPDF Act where in it is  prescribed that ‘explosives’ are  materials ordinarily  reserved for Defence Forces .

I  agree with the submission of counsel for the applicant that he was not subject to military law by virtue of  section 119 (1) ( g)  but he was subject to military law by virtue of section 119( 1) (h) .  

In summary, I find that while the applicant was entitled to bear arms as a police officer, he is charged with an offence during the commission of  which he was allegedly in possession of four tortoise grenades ,  an explosive and therefore a war material  ordinarily reserved for Defence Forces, a  situation that brings him within the ambit of  section 119 (1) (h) and therefore the jurisdiction of the GCM.

As  the applicant has failed on the substantive issue , I need not go into remedies.

This application  is dismissed with no order as to costs as the applicant is on remand and  not in a position to pay costs.

DATED AT KAMPALA THIS 18TH DAY OF DECEMBER 2018

HON. LADY JUSTICE H. WOLAYO

 Legal representation

Joel Olweny & Co. Advocates for the applicant

Attorney General’s chambers for the respondent