David Kato: Lawyer Demands Speedy Trial in Letter to High Court Registrar

Published: June 24, 2011

Six months after the murder of gay rights activist, David Kato, a Ugandan lawyer has written to the Registrar of the High Court demanding a speedy trial.
 
Mr Francis Onyango, Kato’s lawyer, told Behind the Mask on Thursday June 23, that [if the case took any longer] prosecution witnesses to the case were likely to forget the sequence of events or relocate to other areas in the country. He explained that he had chosen to write to the Registrar in Jinja town because the Mukono High Court where the case is expected to be heard is under the Jinja High Court jurisdiction registry.
 
Mr Onyango said, the Registrar should take into account the circumstances surrounding Mr. Kato’s death and fix the hearing in the next Criminal season of the high court criminal session. It is not known when the criminal session will begin, although it had earlier been anticipated to start in April this year.
 
The main suspect, Mr Nsubuga Sydney was charged with Mr Kato’s murder, which is thought to have taken place at Kato’s home in Mukono district, about 25 km east of Kampala.
 
Judicial officers, who spoke on condition of anonymity because they are not allowed to make media statements, said there was a back log of election petitions in Uganda’s country court systems resulting from February’s General Election and that these were overwhelming Uganda’s court system.
 
However, other lawyers said it was most likely the criminal court season would begin in July when courts receive a financial disbursement at the beginning of the government’s fiscal year. Courts need money from government to facilitate witnesses coming to court.
 
“This (the delay in hearings) will occasion a miscarriage of Justice as the key witnesses will be unavailable to testify,” Mr Onyango said in a letter to the Registrar.
 
Mr Nsubuga Sydney, Alias Enoch, was recently committed to the High Court from a lower magistrate’s court to begin hearings of the case.
 
Under Uganda’s Constitution, capital offenders including rape, defilement and rape suspects are not allowed to enter into any plea before magistrates, because the High Court is the only institution with Jurisdiction to try them.
 
However, legal experts note that it could take four to five years, before the suspect’s trial is completed. On average, suspected criminals in capital spend an average of about two and half years awaiting trial.
 
Uganda has a backlog of cases in its judicial systems due to shortage of judges and resources to expedite the trials. Each year, the Principal Judge announces special Criminal Sessions at which judges concentrate on disposing of criminal cases countrywide.
 
Mr Onyango, a gay rights activist himself, had in April this year told Behind the Mask that there were many loopholes in the Kato investigation. He said then that the Uganda police had been too content with the confession allegedly made by the suspected killer.
 
On Thursday, however, he said that he had since developed confidence in the confession because the suspect first made it in a police statement, and then again before a magistrate in a court of Law. “So, he (the suspect) can not again turn around and deny it (the confession). He confessed before a magistrate in a court of Law,” Mr. Onyango said.
 
Nevertheless LGBTI activists in Uganda said that the over-reliance on the said confession threatened the successful investigations into who really killed Kato.
 
Gay activist, Pepe Onziema, an officer with Sexual Minorities Uganda ( SMUG) where David Kato worked said recently that prior to his death, people had hacked into Kato’s email, sending spam mails to his friends and family. Onziema wondered why the police had taken no trouble to establish which internet portal address was used to send the spam mails, and why the deceased’s email had been hacked into.

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