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Court orders police to charge or release two investigative journalists

Kampala, 04th/ November/2017; Court in Kampala has ordered the police to produce to court or immediately release unconditionally two journalists Stanley Ndawula and Robert Ndawula of the Investigator an online publication. The duo has been in detention since 30th October, 2017 which is beyond the mandatory 48 hour rule.

The order was issued in the afternoon of 03rd November, 2017 by the Nakawa Grade One Magistrate Ssajabi Noah Norbert after the duo’s lawyer Mark Nowamani told court that the suspects’ rights had been violated by police continually holding them in detention beyond the mandatory time frame

In the court order, the Magistrate directed that the Inspector General of Police, the Director of the Criminal Investigation and Intelligence Directorate and the Officers in Charge of Kira Road police where Stanley is being detained and of Jinja Road Police Station where Robert is being held produce the two suspects in court with immediate effect or release them unconditionally.

Ndawula Stanley and Ndawula Robert who are currently under detention at Kira Road Police Station and Jinja Road Police Station respectively since 30th October to 03rd November, 2017, be produced in court immediately if there are any charges preferred against them or be unconditionally released immediately” reads the court order.

The journalists are being accused of malicious publications under the Computer Misuse Act of 2011. The Investigator has in the last month’s run stories about the Police Force’s image that have since seen some of their senior officers charged by the army court martial.

On 01st November, 2017, Kira Road Police detained the Human Rights Network for Journalists-Uganda (HRNJ-Uganda) lawyer, Diana Nandudu and a Board Member Francis Tumwekwasize for over three hours and confiscated their cellphones when they went to the police to try and secure Stanley and Robert’s release. They were later released after recording statements and checking the contents of their phones.

Before his arrest, Stanley had written to President Yoweri Museveni accusing the police chief of plotting to end his life because of the investigative stories about gross abuse of office and power by senior police officers, including being behind certain killings. It is possible that Stanley’s arrest could be connected to his online stories about the Uganda Police Force.

The police has over the years been accused of being the lead perpetrator of human humans violations in the country by local, regional and international human rights watch organisations, a claim dismissed by the police leadership.

At the time of this release, it was not clear if the police would heed the court order by releasing the journalists after Stanley’s relative told HRNJ-Uganda that they had gone to Kira police with the court order to release the duo but police declined to respect it.

When contacted, the CIID spokesperson, Vincent Ssekate could not comment, preferring to be given more time. The Kampala Metropolitan Police spokesperson, Emilian Kayima said, “My belief is that we shall comply with the order of court” before referring HRNJ-Uganda to Mr. Ssekate for an official comment.

The police should first investigate cases before arresting suspects to avoid long pre-trial detention and abusing the mandatory 48 hour rule of custody in police cells. We believe that these two journalists are victimized because of the investigative work to expose abuse of power and office by some police leaders. The police must not target journalists who write about its shortfalls but rather take action against it errant officers as so exposed.” Said the HRNJ-Uganda National Coordinator, Robert Ssempala

Court application to release Ndawula Stanley and Ndawula Robert

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