Updated at 1428 EAT on Saturday 28th May 2022.
Buganda Road Magistrate’s court has halted the proceedings in which city lawyer Male Mabirizi is accused of offensive communication until further notice.
Court presided over by grade one magistrate Sanula Nambozo today Friday halted the proceedings and forwarded the file to the Constitutional court as requested by Mabirizi for its interpretation.
The issues that will be interpreted are; whether an order can be made against the Uganda Prisons Services in a criminal matter without filing a civil matter or human rights enforcement case through which the prisons would be represented in court by thr attorney general.
Proceedings that have been halted arise from the privately instituted charges by lawyer Robert Rutaro Muhairwe, who accuses Mabirizi of using his social media platforms to abuse civil division judge Musa Ssekaana.
In February 2022, Rutaro filed criminal charges against Mabirizi arguing that he made posts that were meant to reduce Ssekaana’s self-esteem and to embarrass him in front of the right-thinking members of society.
Muhairwe asked the court to convict Mabirizi and send him to prison on charges of offensive communication, criminal libel, and offences prejudicial to judicial proceedings.
But in April, Mabirizi who is currently at Luzira Upper Prison serving an 18-month sentence handed to him for contempt of court by Ssekaana asked to be transferred from there, saying that he had been removed from Kitalya without prior notice yet there, he had his food enough for ten days.
Mabirizi also said he had not been in a proper state of mind due to hunger and had reportedly suffered at Luzira where he spent two days at that time without meals.
But the state attorney Joan Keko opposed the transfer, saying that Mabirizi’s prayer was arising from a civil matter and she advised that he takes it to the High court to enable Uganda Prisons Services to be represented by the attorney general.
The prosecutor indicated that, in relation to the case against Mabirizi at the moment, the state is not concerned about his place of residence because they know he has not yet been charged or remanded in relation to the charges instituted by Rutaro.
As a result, magistrate Nambozo on April 14, 2022, agreed with the prosecutor and said that the prisons had not been represented in court. She added that the law requires that a person aggrieved by the actions of a government department or agency can always file a case against the attorney general in the High court.
Mabirizi asked the magistrate to forward the file to the Constitutional court for it to interpret whether an order made against the Uganda Prisons Services in a criminal matter without filing a civil or human rights enforcement case is inconsistent with several constitutional provisions.
On the same day, Mabirizi asked court to direct the officer in charge of Luzira prison to provide him with a wall clock, a mattress, bedsheets, and a mosquito net for his own safety and better health arguing that he is sleeping in a hall made out iron bars and that mosquitoes have eaten almost every part of his body.
However, court dismissed the request for him to direct the prisons OC to provide him beddings in prison on grounds that the court cannot compel the OC to provide what he doesn’t have in his possession.
Court added that the Prisons Act provides that Mabirizi can use private ways to get them and that the authorities will examine if what he has brought is acceptable in prisons.