Lawyers Petition Court Challenging Police’s Preventive Detention

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Two lawyers have petitioned the Constitutional Court challenging section 24 (2) of the Police Act which gives police officers powers of indefinite preventive arrest and detention of any person without fair trial.

The lawyers Anne Tendo and Alex Martin Tusiime, both human rights advocates working with the Network for Public Interest Lawyers -NETPIL want the court to declare that the said section is inconsistent with several articles of the constitution.

In their petition where the Attorney General is listed as the respondent, the two lawyers are also seeking declaration that sections 24, 26 and 27 of Criminal Procedure Code Act violate several articles in the Constitution as it also gives a police officer power to arrest and detain a person as a preventive action without any specific time for detention.

For example section 27 says that a police officer may put someone under house arrest if they suspect that they going to cause injury to any public property, movable or immovable, or cause the removal of or injury to any public landmark or buoy or other mark used for navigation.    

However, according to their petition, the lawyers state that the said sections permits a police officer to arrest and detain a person without any charge for an indefinite period which is unconstitutional since the law says that anybody arrested should be produced before court within 48 hours and show cause why they are being held.

One of the applicants Tendo adds that the omission by government to put in place an elaborate procedure to guide on preventive arrest and detention contravenes several articles and National Objective and Directive policy of the constitution.

They now want Court to issue an order directing the Attorney General to enact regulation and guidelines prescribing procedure and duration of preventive detention.  

The lawyers also want Court to order the Attorney General to report to Court within six months from the date of judgment on the steps taken to implement the same.  

This petition comes few months when former presidential candidate Robert Kyagulanyi was arrested under ‘preventive arrest’ and detained in his home for ten days after casting his vote on the January 14th, 2021 presidential elections.

Kyagulanyi regained his freedom after the then head of High Court Civil Division Judge Michael Elubu directed the joint security operatives who had sealed off his home in Magere in Wakiso district to vacate the premises.

Elubu argued that the continued siege by security was illegal as it violated Kyagulanyi and his wife Barbara Itungo’s constitutional right to liberty.  

Previously before Kyagulanyi showed interest to join politics, the former Presidential Candidate Dr. Kizza Besigye was the victim of the preventive arrest offenses by police.

In 2016 following the hotly contested presidential elections held in February, Dr. Besigye was equally put under house arrest together with a number of opposition politicians including Ingrid Turinawe, the Forum for Democratic Change Secretary for Mobilization for a number of days.

Besigye after regaining his freedom also following another court order, he petitioned the Constitutional court to quash the preventive arrest offense from the Criminal Procedure Code Act. Besigye’s Petition was dismissed in 2020 after he failed to turn up in court but the same petition has since been reinstated.

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