Following the release of Dr Jimmy Spire Ssentongo and others from prolonged mandatory institutional quarantine, Lawyers who represented them say they have given hope to all suspected Coronavirus carriers in similar circumstances that ” these unfair things can be challenged “
Speaking to the Legal Reports on Saturday Morning, Award winning human rights Advocate Isaac Ssemakadde, one of them, said:
” Other victims have heard clearly what a battle this has been… their parents and relatives have been calling me with accolades, messages of hope and thanks giving.
” We are working helter-skelter throughout this Easter period to see that these people enjoy the gist of Easter so that the resurrection of Jesus finds them with hope.
” In these extraordinary times, why should we be ordinary lawyers? ” He said, inquisitively.
On Friday evening, Dr Jimmy Spire Ssentongo, an Editorial cartoonist at the Observer newspaper and Senior Lecturer at Uganda Matyrs University in Nkozi was released from mandatory institutional quarantine at Arch Hotel in Ntinda 24 days later, well beyond the WHO recommended 14 days and in spite of consistently testing negative for the Coronavirus.
” Our primary complaint is that the decision to keep him under extended quarantine indefinitely violates the principle of international human rights that public health measures must be evidence based and they must not be unduly long and burdensome ” The Lawyers argued, in Dr Spire’s case.
About 133 formerly suspected Coronavirus victims who have been quarantined at Douglas Villa Hostel in Makerere Kikoni were released by the Ministry of Health, a day after Dr Spire Ssentongo’s release and days after the Lawyers intervention.
An anonymous source who has been quarantined at Arch Hotel in Ntinda, together with Dr Spire, has Saturday told the Legal Reports that they have all been released from the quarantine although the Ministry of Health had not confirmed this story by press time.
The Lawyers on Friday lambasted the Ministry of Health over what they termed as ” arbitrary, unreasonable and illegal detention.”
” You can’t just Lock up people and throw away the key and shut your ears as if you are quarantining cattle or swine” Mr Ssemakadde, who is the team leader at Centre For Legal Aid in Kampala said.
The Ministry of Health on 6th April issued ” additional guidelines” to the effect that in case a positive case is identified in a quarantined person’s hotel, then his or her quarantine days would be recounted implying that a person can stay under quarantine for as long a positive case is discovered in their quarantine center.
Now, the Lawyers say they have been approached by so many other persons in quarantine centers seeking their intervention.
In March, Mr Isaac Ssemakadde in an exclusive interview with the Legal Reports slammed his lawyer colleagues over demands to be enlisted as “essential service providers” during the Coronavirus lockdown saying they are incapable of ” COVID-19 Lawyering”
” In reality, the typical Ugandan Lawyer, and this includes every Judge and Magistrate is a non essential service provider.
” We have abused the Legal Profession and the Judicial vocation for far too long by paying lip service to the protection and promotion of democracy, human rights and the rule of law ” He said in the interview.
Asked about where he derives this drive and inspiration at a time when almost all other Lawyers are under lockdown and staying at home, the self styled ” Legal Rebel” says it is out of ” civic duty.”
He, however was quick to point out challenges which are mainly logistical in their advocacy work.
” We know what is to be done, we have the skills and gumption to get it done” He reassures
” This is expensive and important work. We are not making memes to uplift people’s spirits as they “kill boredom”
” Far from that we’re literally pulling tortured and forgotten suffering people from the brink, restoring their quality of life, health, liberty, privacy and economic fulfilment, we are rehabilitating a nation in a state of pandemic. So we need the funds to do a good job ”