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Justice Esther Kisaakye Sues Chief Justice

5 Others Are Also Respondents

Honourable Justice of the Supreme Court, Lady Justice Esther Kisaakye has petioned the constitutional court of Uganda following the Judicial Services Commission’s decision to withhold her salary and suspend her from executing her duties as a Supreme Court Justice of Uganda.

In a 47 page petition plaint drafted by her advocates KBW Advocates based at Clement hill road Kampala, honourable justice Esther Kisaakye, lists the following as respondents:

  1. Honourable Justice Alfonse Chigamoy Owiny-Dollo (the Chief Justice of Uganda)
  2. Dr. Pius Bigirimana (Permanent Secretary to the Judiciary)
  3. Apophia Tumwine (Commissioner Human Resource to the judiciary of Uganda)
  4. Sarah Langa (SIU) the chief Registrar courts of judicature of Uganda
  5. Judicial Services Commission and
  6. Attorney General of Uganda

The Constitutional Court acknowledged registration of the petition signaling the start of a legal process.

Justice Kisaakye contends that the 6 responded arbitrarily denied her the non derogarable right to a fair hearing for any person accused of any mischief.

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Justice Esther Kisaakye claims she is in the fray of Judiciary witch-hunt.

The International Commission of Jurists issued a strongly worded document warning Uganda’s Judiciary to commit Justice Esther Kisaakye to a fair hearing before passing any disciplinary actions against her.

However, political pundits believe that it’s an open secret that what bred the current acrimony between Justice Kisaakye and the Judiciary in general, was her unwavering stand she took on March 18, 2021 to read to the press her dissenting judgement in a case the former presidential candidate Robert Kyagulanyi Ssentamu had brought against president Museveni.

During this debacle, the Chief Justice even attempted to confisticate Justice Kisaakye judgement. After recording futility in this strategy, the chie justice ordered the removal of all  equipment which were meant to disseminate information to the press.

Uganda: Supreme Court Justice Esther Kisaakye must be granted a fair hearing to contest disciplinary Actions passed against her.

The International Commission of Jurists (ICJ) is concerned about allegations of arbitrary and unfair treatment against Ugandan Supreme Court Justice Esther Kisakye and the implications it may carry for the independence of the judiciary in Uganda.

Justice Kisaakye has reportedly come under disciplinary proceedings by Uganda’s Judicial Service Commission, without proper notice or due process, and her salary has been suspended.

ICJ has received reports indicating that a disciplinary inquiry was initiated by the Judicial Service Commission (JSC) following Justice Kisaakye’s decision to deliver her dissenting judgment in one of the 2021 presidential election petitions. In that case, main opposition leader Robert Kyagulanyi Sentamu had filed a petition challenging the results of the 2021 presidential election. He made a follow-up application seeking leave of the Court to amend his main application. The Court refused to grant the sought leave, holding the application had been beyond the strict time limit provided by law within which the petition should be filed. But Justice Kisaakye dissented, arguing that the Applicant had been deprived of his right to prepare the main application as he had been placed under illegal house arrest during the window of time he could have been preparing his application.

While delivering her dissenting judgment, which was covered by the members of the press on 18 March 2021, Justice Kisaakye alleged that Chief Justice Alfonse Owiny-Dollo, had attempted to obstruct her from handing down her dissenting judgment. The Chief Justice is reported to have ordered the confiscation of Justice Kisaakye’s files.

Reports received by ICJ indicate that Justice Kisaakye is now being investigated by the JSC on charges that are yet to be disclosed to Justice Kisaakye and the public. The ICJ also understands that the payment of Justice Kisaakye’s salary, housing, medical and other benefits has been stopped since July 2022 by the Secretary to the Judiciary, on allegations that she has been away from her duties without official leave since September 2021. ICJ understands that Justice Kisaakye denies these allegations as she contends that she was on duty from September 2021, went on leave from December 2021, and resumed her duties in June 2022.

The ICJ is concerned that the JSC has commenced a disciplinary inquiry against Justice Kisaakye without duly informing her, as is required under both domestic and international human rights law.

Commenting on these reports, ICJ Africa Director Kaajal Ramjathan-Keogh, said:

“ICJ is concerned about these reports as they suggest violations of Uganda’s obligations, under African and universal international human rights law, to ensure due process and the right to a fair hearing for any person accused of criminal or ethical misconduct. Any charges against Justice Kisaakye should be clearly stated and the evidence substantiated, presented and subject to challenge. These reports also suggest interference with the independence of the judiciary.”

International law and standards require that where there are allegations of professional misconduct, the right to a fair hearing includes the right to be duly notified of the charges and any disciplinary proceedings to be undertaken. Commencing a disciplinary inquiry against Justice Kisaakye without notifying her would constitute a violation of her right to a fair hearing. The decision to stop the payment of her salary, housing, medical and other benefits without first conducting fair disciplinary proceedings against her, and finding her guilty of misconduct which justifies such suspension of benefits would be a serious violation of Uganda’s obligations to ensure due process in cases involving the discipline of a member of the judiciary. It would also undermine judicial independence.

The ICJ calls upon the Judicial Services Commission of Uganda to ensure that Justice Kisaakye’s procedural rights are fully respected. In particular, her right to receive her salary and other benefits must be restored and she must be duly notified of any disciplinary proceedings pending against her.

Background

Principle 19 of the United Nations Basic Principles on the Independence of the Judiciary, states that, “[a]ll disciplinary, suspension or removal proceedings shall be determined in accordance with established standards of judicial conduct.” Such standards include the right of a judge to a fair hearing, as guaranteed for every person under article 28 of the Constitution of Uganda, article 7 of the African Charter on Human and Peoples’ Rights, as well as article 14 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights. In respect of judges facing disciplinary proceedings, section 11 of the Judicial Service Act of Uganda underscores their right to a fair hearing as follows:

“In dealing with matters of discipline, and removal of a judicial officer, the [Judicial Service] commission shall observe the rules of natural justice; and, in particular, the commission shall ensure that an officer against whom disciplinary or removal proceedings are being taken is—
(a) informed about the particulars of the case against him or her;
(b) given the right to defend himself or herself and present his or her case at the meeting of the commission or at any inquiry set up by the commission for the purpose;”

Section 10(1) of Uganda’s Judicial Service (Complaints and Disciplinary Proceedings) Regulations provides procedures to be followed by the JSC upon receiving a complaint of misconduct. It states that “The respondent shall be served the copy of the complaint and shall be required to file a reply within fourteen days from the date of service.”

Principle 11 of the United Nations Basic Principles on the Independence of the Judiciary, states that “[t]he term of office of judges, their independence, security, adequate remuneration, conditions of service, pensions and the age of retirement shall be adequately secured by law.” Salaries and other benefits of judges must not be tampered with during their tenure as judges.

Chris Kato

Uganda Today is a source of analytical, hard and entertaining news for audiences of all categories in Uganda and internationally. Uganda Today cut its teeth in Ugandan media industry with its print copies hitting the streets in October 2014. We are heavily indebted to all our publics and stakeholders who support our cause in one way or the other. To comment on our stories, or share any news or pertinent information, please follow us on: Facebook: Uganda Today Twitter: @ugtodaynews WhatsApp:+256 702 239 337 Email: ugandatodayedition@gmail.com Website: https://www.ugandatoday.co.ug

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