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East African Court of Justice hears applications filed by Attorney General and Media Legal Defence Initiative (Demo)

Arusha, 13th /February/2019; Hearing of two consolidated applications filed by the Attorney General (A.G) of Uganda and the Media Legal Defense Initiative (MLDI) together with 19 other Organizations commenced on 12th February at the East African Court of Justice.

In the first application (Appn No. 4 of 2018) , the A.G sought Leave of Court to allow their Notice of Appeal on court record out of time after a decision of the First Instance Division delivered on 20th September 2017 allowing the Media Legal Defence Initiative to be joined as amici curiae(friends of court). While in the second application (Appn. No.6 of 2018) MLDI and 19 other Organizations through the Pan African Lawyers filed another Application seeking to have the Attorney General’s Notice of Appeal struck out.

The court was presided over by Justices, Liboire Nkurunziza, Aaron Ringera & Geoffrey Kiryabwire while Attorney General was represented by Atwiine Jeffrey and Natuhwera Jonhson and MLDI & 19 others was represented by Nelson Ndeki of Pan African Lawyers Union.

In his submission in court presided over by Justices, Counsel Nelson Ndeki asked court to strike out Attorney General’s application due to the inordinate delay in filing the Appeal. He cited Rule 81 of the Rules of Procedure which provides that failure to take an essential step in the proceedings within the prescribed time is ground for an application to have the notice of appeal struck out. Adding that the application by A.G is intentionally delaying the disposal of the main reference that was filed in 2014.

Counsel Ndeki further noted that if Attorney General is granted leave to appeal out of time, this will cause undue prejudice to Ronald Ssembuusi( now deceased) -substituted by Edward Kyeyune as a legal representative and the Media Legal Defence Initiative & 19 other organisations.

In reply, Counsel Jeffrey Atwiine from Attorney Generals chambers told court that they filed a Notice of Appeal on 6th October 2017 shortly after the ruling, only that it was filed in the wrong court and as such, it is not true that that there was inordinate delay.

Judgement on the consolidated applications will be delivered on notice.

On December 4 2014, Ronald Ssembuusi, a radio journalist with CBS, petitioned the East African Court of Justice in Arusha Tanzania challenging the continued use by the government of Uganda, sections 179 and 180 of the Penal Code of Uganda which provide for the offence of criminal defamation. Ssembuusi in his affidavit contends that the continued use of the above provisions is a violation of the fundamental and operating principles of the East African Community Treaty. Ssembuusi died after filing the petition and Edward Kyeyune was appointed as his legal representative.

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