East African Court allows UN, AU Special Rapporteurs into Criminal Defamation Case

Kampala, 16th/November/2015; The East African Court of Justice seating in Arusha on Thursday 12th/November/2015 accepted David Kaye, the United Nations Special Rapporteur on the Promotion and Protection of the Right to Freedom of Opinion and Expression and Faith Dikeledi Pansy Tlakula of the African Commission on Human and People’s Rights Special Rapporteur on Freedom of Expression and Access to Information to be part of the case filed before the court in December by a Uganda journalist challenging criminal defamation.

Faith Dikeledi Pansy Tlakula and David Kaye are hereby granted leave to join Reference No. 16 as Amicus Curiae,” the Deputy Principal Judge, Isaac Lenoala ruled adding that their submissions will be restricted to matters of law and submitted to court in writing.

In July 2015, the two applied to become friends of court (Amicus Curiae) in determining whether the continued use of the law on criminal defamation by the Uganda government violates the Treaty for the Establishment of the East African Community. Both Ssembuusi and the Uganda government lawyers did not object to the application.

Court will also decide on another request by Media Legal Defence Initiative a UK based organization and 19 other local and international organizations to be allowed as friends of the court on the same matter.

On 2nd/December/2014, Ronald Ssembuusi, a radio journalist, petitioned court challenging the continued use by the Uganda government of sections 179 and 180 of the Penal Code of Uganda which provides for the offence of criminal defamation. Ssembuusi died after filing the petition. The East African court rules provide that the death of person does not stop the case but a legal representative must be appointed. The court on Thursday allowed Edward Kyeyune, as the legal representative of the late Ssembuusi.

HRNJ-UG Admin

Human Rights Network for Journalists-Uganda (HRNJ-Uganda) is a network of human rights journalists in Uganda working towards enhancing the promotion, protection and respect of human rights through defending and building the capacities of journalists, to effectively exercise their constitutional rights and fundamental freedoms for collective campaigning through the media.

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