Lawyer Male Mabirizi has instituted private criminal charges against 16 newly appointed High Court Justices. They are Singiza Douglas Karekona, Samuel Emokor, Thomas Ocaya, Allan Paul Mbabazi Nshimye, Collins Acellam, George Okello, Bernard Namanya, Susan Kanyange, Flavia Matovu Nasuuna, Mary Ikit, Christine Kaahwa, Patricia Mutesi, Patricia Asiimwe, Faridah Shamilah Bukirwa, Celia Nagawa and Harriet Grace Magala.
President Yoweri Kaguta Museveni appointed the justices in acting capacity on May 25th, 2022 on recommendation from the Judicial Service Commission. The judges were sworn in on August 12th, 2022 before the appointing authority. However, in his suit filed before Entebbe Chief Magistrate’s court, Mabirizi accuses the justices of taking unlawful oath and being a common nuisance.
He contends that the accused persons, all lawyers and adults of sound mind on August 12th, 2022 while at State House Entebbe in Wakiso District, one by one took unlawful oaths of allegiance and judicial oath well aware that they were neither substantively appointed nor approved by Parliament in positions of High Court Justices.
The procedure has always been that Judges appointed by the President go through Parliament for vetting before they are cleared to take their judicial oath. But this, Mabirizi says was not the case with this group. He says that the decision by the accused to take the oaths of allegiance and judicial oaths without substantive appointment and approval by Parliament as Judges of the High Court outside the law caused annoyance and inconvenience to the public.
He now wants the court to issue criminal summons against the accused persons to answer the charges that attract a maximum sentence of seven years imprisonment. Besides this criminal case, Mabirizi has also filed a civil suit against the Judicial Service Commission and the Attorney General in the High Court in Kampala to quash the appointments of the affected justices and a declaration that the positions they are holding are vacant since they were appointed illegally.
In June 2022, Makerere University Lecturer Dr. Kabumba Busingye together with lawyer Andrew Karamagi petitioned the Constitutional Court in Kampala seeking to declare the appointments of the 16 High Court Judges in acting capacity illegal. They contend that the appointments in acting capacity violate several constitutional provisions, which refer to Supremacy and the Independence of the Judiciary.
“This kind of conditional appointment infringes on the Supremacy of the Constitution, undermines the security of tenure of Judges, and violates the independence of the Judiciary as the said officers are likely to execute their duties with either fear of retribution or expectation of favor or both”, argued Kabumba in his petition, which is yet to be fixed for hearing. Mabirizi is currently serving an 18 months jail term in Luzira prisons handed to him for contempt of court. His petitions are often filed by his legal associates, who don’t want to be named allegedly for their own safety despite the fact that they are drafted and personally signed by Mabirizi.