During the previous hearing last March 2019, the defence team alleged that the accused was assaulted by a prison official and as such requested the Court to order an investigation into the matter. The Directorate of Public Prosecution consequently issued a report, which found the allegation to be untrue. The Defence objected to the impartiality of the report, on the basis that the investigation had been carried out by the prison authorities. The Defence further requested the Court to appoint another entity instead, such as the police, the Internal Security Organization, or the Uganda Human Rights Commission (UHRC) to take care of the investigation. This matter was the sole focus of first hearing day. It could not be settled the day after as originally envisaged, due to leaks coming from the roof of the tribunal into courtroom. Justice Duncan Gaswaga eventually settled and rejected the claim on July 3rd, considering that the Defence had not submitted sufficient evidence of the irregularities in the report.
The rest of the hearings was dedicated to the testimonies of three witnesses, in closed session, as provided by Rule 35(2), allowing the Judge to restrict the presence of the media and public during proceedings for security and confidentiality purposes, and 36(1), which provides that the Judge may order measures to protect a victim, a witness or another person at risk on account of any proceedings before the Court. One of the witnesses testified through a video connexion, from a separate room, while the parties in the case were following the proceeding from a screen installed in the court room. The screen was positioned in a way making impossible for the defence team and the accused to see the person testifying and that the public was not allowed in the court room.
In the absence of any clear guidelines in relation to the victims’ participation, there is currently no clarity as to their right to attend or not court proceedings held in camera. On July 5th, the public was still allowed to view clips from previous court hearings.
A lawyer reported that one of the witnesses broke down during the hearing. This episode shed the light on the need for psychological support to be made available throughout the hearings. With more witnesses planned to testify during the next hearings, this needs to be urgently addressed.
The court was adjourned to July 15th, 2019.