Uganda should stop court martialling civilians

July 27, 2011 11:41 am

, KAMPALA, Jul 27 – Human Rights Watch on Wednesday called on Uganda to stop using military courts to prosecute civilians.

More than 1,000 civilians have been court martialled since 2002 despite Uganda’s constitutional court ruling that the military cannot try civilians charged with common crimes, the New York-based rights group said in report.

“Prosecuting civilians in military courts may have been a matter of convenience and expediency for President Yoweri Museveni’s government,” said Maria Burnett, an Africa researcher with the watchdog.

“But it is unjust and unlawful under both Uganda’s constitution and international and African human rights law,” Burnett added in a statement.

The rights group highlighted a case in which a 20-year-old woman was sentenced to death in 2010 by a military court for killing her husband who was a soldier.

The court said that the death penalty “should serve as an example to all women married to soldiers to desist from plotting to kill their husbands over petty issues,” the report said.

Military courts in Uganda do not meet international legal standards for independence and impartiality and have in the past handed out severe punishments, including the death penalty, the report added.

Although the Ugandan military has indicated that it is considering altering the practice, at least 341 civilians are currently awaiting trial by military courts, HRW said.

“If the Ugandan military is to live up to its much-proclaimed professionalism, it should abandon subjecting civilians to a military jurisdiction, which is a stark violation of professionalism and international law,” Burnett said.


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