Following the High Court’s decision yesterday to bar Lawyers under their association the Uganda Law Society (ULS) from meeting and discussing the state of Judicial Independence in Uganda at an Extraordinary General Meeting (EGM) that was scheduled for yesterday afternoon, 9 lawyers are now calling upon their colleagues in the legal profession to boycott the Judiciary’s Opening of the “New Law Year” event slated for Friday, 9th February 2024.
The lawyers – all notable Public Interest activists and litigants, say the proposed boycott is a form of protest against the High Court’s “gag order” intended to muzzle members of the legal profession from publicly discussing the independence of Judges in the Country.
The Opening of the New Law Year is an annual event organized by the Judiciary to provide accountability for its work in the previous year and held at the Judiciary Headquarters in Kampala, it is usually attended by robed practicing lawyers and Judicial officers alike.
President Yoweri Kaguta Museveni usually officiates the event.
At this year’s event, the Judiciary is expected to commission new towers that will house the Supreme Court and the Court of Appeal.
“This 7-page ruling is really a one-pager, gagging a bundle of Article 29 rights to freedom of association, assembly, and expression on the speculative basis that likely resolutions of the ULS EGM on a matter of public interest may be illegal. This marks a new low for our Judiciary and the National Bar Association. It was previously inconceivable that the Bench could trample on the rights of the Bar in such capricious fashion.”The Lawyers led by Mr. Phillip Karugaba of law firm ENS Africa say.
“ It is misleading and dangerous for the Judiciary to suggest that such professional lawyers’ gatherings are subject to its approval.” They add.
Yesterday, as we reported, High Court Judge Musa Ssekaana issued the orders in question on the ground that the Applicant’s main case for Judicial Review of the decision of the ULS to hold the said EGM presented serious legal questions on whether the Law Society has mandate to meet and discuss Judicial independence and therefore the scheduled EGM had to wait for the determination of that main case.
“ Without respect for independence of the Judiciary, the practice of law will be rendered meaningless. A strong, independent and impartial Judiciary is a cornerstone of any democracy and non-negotiable for good governance and the Rule of Law. We urge members of the ULS and all the citizenry to stand up in defence of these constitutional principles. We cannot have an independent Judiciary minus a robust and active Bar Association. That equation is unconstitutional. Therefore, our colleagues at the bar must be prepared to join all efforts to push back against this obnoxious gag order and the first step is to heed our call to boycott the Judiciary’s invitation to the so-called Opening of the Law Year event… It is cynical and disingenuous to gather with those that block our gatherings, in the name of “People-centered Justice.”The Lawyers Said.
It should be noted that the Applicant who moved Justice Ssekaana to issue the controversial order is a member of ULS and these colleagues of his are further calling for the condemnation of people like him “plotting to gag ULS members’ meetings.”
“ Censors are always resoundingly defeated in the course of history. We are confident that this manifestly void injunction will also have a short-lived and disgraceful voyage to the dustbin of history.”
Benjamin Ahikiiriza is a Legal Writer And Digital Communications & Marketing Specialist majoring in Lawyers, Law Firms And the larger Legal Sector.
Benjamin currently Works as the Director of Content and Business Development At LegalReports.