The trial of thirty one Muslim terror suspects including Sheikh Muhammad Yusuf Kamoga has today hit a temporary dead end after the prosecution and defence counsels failed to agree on how to proceed under the International Criminal Court (ICC) rules and procedures in regard to terrorism charges, which are considered international crimes.
The 31 suspects are charged with the murder of several Muslim clerics across among them Sheikhs Hassan Kiirya, Abdulkadir Muwaya, Abdulkarim Sentamu and Mustapha Bahiga.
The standoff followed the issue of amended procedures, given that the suspects are being charged with an international crime and, Defence Counsels Mac Dosman Kabega and Ladislaus Rwakafuuzi asked the presiding judges to allow for some amendments since the rules and laws were not clear to them.
The trial judges were then left with no option other than to invite Justice Duncan Gaswaga to clear some queries since both the prosecution and defense were not conversant with the ICC rules.
Justice Gaswaga referred the defence lawyers to Article 139 of the Constitution and noted that ‘this is the High Court of Uganda and not The Hague, so the position I hold at this court differs from the one I would hold while sitting at the ICC,” Justice Gaswaga told his learned friends. He however, promised to conduct further consultations on the procedural matters.
Prosecutor, Senior State Attorney Lino Anguzu, concurred with his colleagues about the new rules which require even the prosecution to amend the charge.
He added that some of the also provisions allow him to promote confidentiality while presenting witnesses because some of them need security.
In response Justice Gaswaga advised Prosecutor Anguzu to follow the requisite procedures while applying for security for the witnesses, but rejected prosecution’s request to be accorded more time to sort out the seeming procedural anomalies ‘like printing and photocopying documents, amending the charge, disclosing of evidence and arranging everything in proper order’ before the next pre-trial hearing.
The judge reminded Anguzu that prosecution had over two years to prepare for the case, a development that was welcomed by the 30 suspects, who also complained of being tortured while in custody.
This prompted the Judge to ask them if they can identify the people who torture them so that they can be brought to book, to which all the suspects responded in the affirmative.
Meanwhile, counsel Rwakafuzi complained that some of the suspects, identified as A27, A28, A 29, A 30 and A31, are not Ugandan nationals yet they are being charged in the High Court of Uganda.