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UGANDA: Kayihura likely to apply for bail, what he wanted to eliminate for other suspects!

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The rule of law protects us all

DAILY MONITOR –  The elephant is a very huge animal. It was once suggested that there was no need for a bridge that all animals had spent enormous energy to construct so that they could cross to the other side of the jungle to hunt. Mr Elephant, tall as he is, thought he did not need the bridge, and so for him, there was no need for the bridge. It didn’t matter to him that others weren’t his size and, therefore, needed a bridge.

Unfortunately, Mr Elephant lost both hind legs and could only crawl with the help of others. The bridge finally became relevant, and it was the only means Mr Elephant could cross to the other side of the jungle.

As I write, a man who was once powerful and untouchable, will probably apply for bail. He will desire that the court martial is independent. Appearing before a committee of Parliament not so long ago, Gen Kale Kayihura vigorously argued for the abolition of the 48-hour rule because it was an inconvenience to police investigations. Because we are humans, when we are satisfied, we often don’t imagine how the hungry feel and we sometimes call them greedy when we see them yearning for food. When one is at the helm of power, they think that the rule of law is an inconvenience to them or that it is not necessary altogether. What they don’t think about is that someday, they too will need the protection of the system they once abused or even weakened themselves.

I would imagine if Idi Amin had been arrested in Uganda, he wouldn’t like to be killed the way he killed other people. Perhaps he could have regretted why there was no constitution to safeguard his rights to a fair trial. So because he was at the very top, the system was not necessary.

Our President thinks that there should be no bail and police bond for “killers”. This statement, which I will take as a presidential directive because of the tone in which it was made, has many flaws. It presumes that before a person is found guilty by courts, he is already guilty (killers as opposed to suspects). This is contrary to a near universal principle of presumption of innocence that is central to a fair criminal justice system. The right to apply for bail is premised on the presumption that the suspect is innocent until he or she is proved guilty or pleads guilty.

It is critical that society understands the import of this principle: First, crimes are often committed discretely with no direct evidence. Concluding that someone is guilty before enough evidence is adduced against them risks jailing innocent people. Our criminal justice system is not perfect, but at least there must be a higher standard that minimises the risk of jailing innocent persons. That is why the standard of proof is beyond reasonable doubt as opposed to balance of probability applicable in civil matters.

Second, people can malign others either because of grievances or hatred. Their evidence must be subjected to a scrutinious court process to ascertain its truthfulness. Third, some persons who commit crime don’t do it out of their own will. Some are mentally ill and they don’t have control of their mental faculties while others act out of provocation or self-defence.

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