he Legal Brains Trust, a Kampala-based democracy and human rights watchdog has Tuesday petitioned the Arusha- based East African Court of Justice challenging the appointment of Uganda’s new Director of Public Prosecutions (DPP) Justice Jane Frances Abodo who was appointed to the office by President Yoweri Kaguta Museveni on the 2nd of April.
The watchdog, according to its statement of reference obtained by The Legal Reports, claims the decisions of the President, the Uganda Judicial Service Commission, the Public Service Commission and the Ugandan Parliament ” of releasing, recommending, nominating, vetting, approving, and effecting the appointment ” of Justice Abodo, who also acts as a High Court Judge are ” unlawful and an infringement of fundamental and operational principles of the East African Community” such as ” good governance,including the adherence to the principles of democracy, the rule of law, accountability, transparency, equal opportunities, and the maintenance of universally accepted standards of human rights” as contained in Articles 6(d) and 7(2) of the Treaty for the establishment of the East African Community.
In particular, the watchdog argues that the action of the Uganda Judiciary and Judicial Service Commission to ” preferentially” second or otherwise release a Judge of the High Court, Ms Justice Abodo, to partake in what they describe as ” extrajudicial moonlighting for the Executive Branch as DPP ” is unlawful.
” Judge Jane Frances Abodo did not resign her constitutional office as a Judge of the High Court of Uganda prior to moonlighting for the Executive branch in another constitutional office as a DPP – a position which is gazetted under the Advocates Act for the third most ranking member of the Ugandan Bar” An affidavit sworn in support of the case by Mr Ivan Ssengendo, a director of the Watchdog reads in part.
” Judge Jane Frances Abodo received the tacit approval of the Chief Justice, Principal Judge and Judicial Service Commission before moonlighting for the Executive Branch as a DPP and accordingly she was treated preferentially over other judicial officers who may have wished to partake in a similar moonlighting gig ”
They also contend that the President could not nominate to Parliament a Judge of the High Court, Justice Abodo, without the recommendation of the Public Service Commission – and that if the recommendation was given, it was secretive as there was no advertising of the vacancy and the nominee was not subjected to “an open, transparent, fair and competitive search and selection process.”
On 6th April, the Parliamentary appointments committee chaired by Speaker Rebecca Kadaga interfaced with the newly appointed DPP, along 8 other Presidential nominees, to consider her suitability for the office and approved her appointment to the office.
This, the group says, was unlawful in so far as the Parliamentary committee did not present a report of its findings on the suitability of Justice Jane Frances Abodo or lack of it to a plenary session of Parliament for debate and approval.
According to Mr Ssengendo’s affidavit (which forms part of the evidence), he came across a “concealed letter” in which the Clerk to Parliament ” had issued a notice of interaction with several presidential nominees scheduled to appear before the Appointments Committee, including the 46-year Old High Court Judge Lady Justice Jane Frances Abodo who had been nominated by the President for the position of Director of Public Prosecutions”
” The vetting of Judge Jane Frances Abodo for the position of DPP in secret prevented the Applicant ( Legal Brains Trust) and the Uganda Public from submitting objections against the nominee before the Appointments Committee… the Uganda public, which the nominee is supposed to serve was robbed of an opportunity to scrutinize for themselves not only the diligence with which the legislators discharged their respective duties but also qualifications, competence, plans of the nominee and the manner in which she responds to questions ” Mr Ssengendo states in the affidavit.
The East African Court of Justice was established in 2001 with the mandate to ” ensure the adherence to law ” amongst East African states, including Uganda. The group wants the Court to issue an order annulling the appointment of Justice Jane Frances Abodo as Uganda’s DPP, an order nullifying all actions and decisions she has made as DPP, so far, a permanent injuction restraining her from further acting as DPP and an order requiring all branches of the Uganda Government and other Governmental and public authorities of Uganda to desist from actions and decisions complained of in the case.
Hearing of the case is yet to be communicated.