Lawmakers on Parliament’s Committee on Human Rights yesterday demanded for a speedy trial of their detained colleagues, Muhammad Ssegirinya (Kawempe North) and Allan Ssewanyana (Makindye West), who are battling several charges, including murder, attempted murder and aiding and abetting terrorism.The charges are in connection with the machete attacks that rocked greater Masaka region in 2021.
The MPs made the demand to a team from the Office of Director of Public Prosecutions (DPP) that was presenting a statement on torture before the committee.
“I am getting perturbed by the way the DPP behaves. They fail to produce substantial evidence against people they slapped cases on and there are so many examples where rights are abused. So, we wonder whether you are working for the State or people of Uganda because this is even happening to Honourable Members of Parliament Muhammad Ssegirinya and Allan Ssewanyana,” Mr Francis Zaake (Mityana Municipality) said.
Mr Zaake wondered why his colleagues’ bail applications are always opposed. Ms Flavia Kalule Nabagabe (Kassanda Woman) said: “Where is the challenge so that we find ways of helping you as Parliament’s Committee on Human Rights because we are very interested in knowing about our colleagues,” Ms Nabagabe said.
In response, Mr John Baptist Asiimwe, the deputy DPP (management and support services), said the duo was committed to High Court for trial and the DPP will start the trial once the Judiciary presents the case.
“For us, once we commit an accused person to the High Court that means we are ready for trial. It is the Judiciary which has to arrange sessions and put in place requirements for the session. So, the period the accused stays on remand should not be interpreted to mean DPP is failing to utilise evidence,” Mr Asiimwe said.
The case of the two legislators has been adjourned several times either due to the absence of the prosecutor or on State’s request for more time.
Mr Fox Odoi (West Budama North), who chairs the committee, was concerned about the other “less known” civilians who have been detained for long periods without trial.
Mr Asiimwe said they are piloting a programme of organising daily hearings aimed at handling some of these cases.
Mr George William Byansi, also serving as the deputy DPP, said there is continuous review of cases pending trial.
“We continuously look through files to sieve out those, for example, which don’t evidence, and those where people have lost interest in order to reduce prolonged periods of periods of detention before trial,” Mr Byansi said.
The two MPs ,who have been on remand since September 20, 2021, were first accused of murder, attempted murder and aiding and abetting terrorism in connection with last year’s spate of killings that left 26 people dead in Greater Masaka.
They were later granted bail, but re-arrested as they left prison, and slapped with fresh charges.