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High Court Upholds Decision To Prosecute Uganda’s Foreign Affairs Minister

The Ugandan Minister of Foreign Affairs, Sam Kutesa, has failed in his bid to stop his prosecution over the repatriation of businessman Ben Kabuya’s family from the United States during the COVID-19 lockdown.

On May 18, 2020, three members of Kavuya’s family travelled from the US to Uganda aboard Ethiopian Airlines at a time when Entebbe International Airport and other Ugandan borders were closed over the coronavirus pandemic.

On June 1, a lawyer, Leonard Otee of Otee Associated Advocates, filed a complaint against Mr Kutesa at Buganda Road Court seeking the court to allow private prosecutions of the minister and the three returnees.

The three returnees sued alongside Mr Kutesa are Barbara Kavuya, Blanche Kibaju and Isaiah Tiba Byabashaija.

Otee argued that Kutesa’s actions were illegal because they contravened regulations that were put in place by the government to check the spread of the disease.

However, the Buganda Road Grade One Senior Magistrate Stella Maris Amabilis ruled that the Director of Public Prosecutions – DPP takes over the matter. Her argument was that the constitution mandates the office of the DPP to take over all the criminal proceedings in this country.

But, Otee applied for a review of the decision in the High Court Criminal Division. He said that the case was likely to collapse because the DPP was not acting in the interest of the public.

However, in his Judgement today the head of High Court Criminal Division Justice Wilson Kwesiga said that he had examined the lower court proceedings and relevant laws and found that criminal proceedings are not supposed to be a private contest when the DPP is interested in investigating and prosecuting a matter to prevent abuse of the court process.

Justice Kwesiga terminated Private Prosecution proceedings and ordered that the original file be sent back to Buganda Road Magistrates Court for further case management.

He also ordered the DPP to take over and continue with the case to serve the interest of justice in the matter.

Justice Kwesiga now directed that the complainant avails to the DPP any materials relevant for the pursuit of the case to enable the DPP to conduct appropriate prosecution.

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