Muwada Nkunyingi (Uganda)- When criminal justice resembles injustice
The Case for Arua Suspects Trials. Its trite law that any person suspected to have committed an offence can be arrested by a civilian,a police officer ,a judicial officer and indeed an army officer can legally execute an arrest.
The constitutional presumption of innocence demands that since a suspect is just presumed,he or she should be treated as human,with dignity,not as a criminal and indeed an arrest is itself not a penalty and should not look so. it is actually imprisonment in a lawful gazetted place upon a lawful sentence of court for a known period of time ,that can at time,for a known offence,upon conviction whose sentence is imprisonment,that amount to a penalty.
Any other arrest should be seen,handled and executed as a mere criminal justice process and should not resemble a penalty,and should never cause injury to the suspect. The law warrants use of reasonable force if a suspect resist arrest but the measure of reasonable force is presumed at all time to leave the suspect alive and unclaimed.
Criminal justice read together with community policing greatly need a human face and indeed involve civilians either as suspects,witnesses,assessors , whistle brewers e.t.c and of course established institutions like police,DPP, e.t.c. The Uganda legal system abolished corporal punishments even to convicts. Its presumed grave human violation.
NOW THE ARUA suspects demeanor for some suspects now accused in court in eyes of ordinary viewers seems mishandled ,which they claim to have transpired upon arrest. at least in their media interview. The President has come out to dispute torture but not injury.
As the matter is still before court,to my memory ,what is before court are criminal trials for penal offences but not claims of torture. We await how the legal team would jointly argue the two and a court pronouncement is made.
Never the less,the visible injuries on suspects whose magnitude we can’t asses using only the TV scripts we see,still should never have happened. Such ugly scenes observable on the claiming suspects tend to blackmail the set system of criminal justice.
Criminal justice bar trial of a chained suspect,and require public open court trial in most instances . a suspect should feel free, unintimidated, and must understand the trial,both by physical fitness ,mental ability,health ability and language. Indeed translation is vital and a trial can stale pending securing a translator.
The need to accord fair medication to those seeking so should be protected and advocated even by the state. Justice must be seen to be done and atrial is not all about securing conviction and should be judicious with judicial independence.
Of course any civilian player or public member aggrieved by a court process in criminal justice should as well demonstrate discomfort within established freedom and rights machinery but not be overturned in anger but using set constitutional legal processes.
No one is above the law,and even security agents must act within the law. When we have judicial independence and promote respect to judicial orders by all state agents and departments,surely the aggrieved public will utilise and resort to courts always knowing that even the state can be found wrong,and state institutions would pay and pay in time compensation and damages for every wrong action of the state including malicious prosecution and injury if any.
To date many persons who won cases against the state some on human rights violation stand unpaid. Some state agents refuse to receive or disrespect court orders and a number of incidences captured on TVs.
I would now advise government that strengthening respect to the law, and enforcement of national stability where people /public are seen to always use lawful means at all times,require not command or threats but a double phased approach.
The state should promote and strengthen criminal justice institutions, instruct public officers to respect the rule of law, ensure judicial independence and protect the sanctity of parliamentary legislative processes, surely the public would yarn to seek justice in courts than complaining to who ever dares to hear hence annoying those in powers.
A feeling that a court order would be enforced against government will ignite public trust and would rebuild hope. Indeed we have the relevant institutions in place,it is all about letting them perform and perform independently.