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Mabirizi's 18 Month Jail Term Draws Mixed Reactions from Lawyers :: Uganda Radionetwork
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Mabirizi's 18 Month Jail Term Draws Mixed Reactions from Lawyers

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A section of lawyers interviewed by URN on Mabirizi's conviction have expressed mixed feelings. Some of the lawyers described the sentence as harsh and advised him to appeal and the sentence.
17 Feb 2022 08:33
Male Mabirizi

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The 18 months jail term handed to controversial city lawyer, Male Mabirizi for contempt of Court has generated mixed reactions amongst advocates. On Tuesday, Civil Division High Court Judge Musa Ssekaana issued an arrest on sight warrant for Mabirizi to serve 18 months in civil prison for contempt of court.

This stemmed from an application by the Attorney General to the High court to find Mabirizi guilty of contempt of court because of his continuous social media attacks on judicial officers despite a court order issued on January 27th 2022 cautioning him to stop.   

A section of lawyers interviewed by URN on Mabirizi's conviction have expressed mixed feelings. Some of the lawyers described the sentence as harsh and advised him to appeal and the sentence. According to Caleb Alaka,  Judicial officers use contempt of court as a tool to protect themselves since they cannot come out openly to exchange with those who abuse or criticise them.     

He says contempt of court is a broad issue where a Judge has the discretion to sentence one as he or she wishes. Jude Byamukama concurs with Alaka, saying that although there is no defined punishment for contempt of court,  the 18 months jail term handed to Mabirizi is too harsh.  

He compares Mabirizi’s punishment with the one given to Ivan Samuel Ssebadduka who is serving three years for describing Supreme Court Justices in open court as fools.  Byamukama explains that since Mabirizi made unkind remarks against the judicial officers via social media, locking him up for three weeks would have been enough.  

Ben Muhumuza, another lawyer says to avoid such scenarios judicial officers ought to recuse themselves from matters where they have an interest. "If contemptuous remarks refer to the judicial officer with prudence, he should not entertain such a matter. And regarding the punishment, contempt is the only exception to written laws and as such a judicial officer has discretion for sentencing.  

However, it should not be harsh", Muhumuza told Uganda Radio Network. Many other lawyers interviewed on the matter such as Michael Aboneka shared the same view as Alaka. Aboneka says that the court has inherent powers to decide on its own to pass orders in contempt both civil and criminal.      

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However, Steven Kalali, a renowned critic of Mabirizi, says the 18months sentence is fair and reasonable owing to the circumstances and the nature of continued contemptuous acts.  

“We all note that unlike the fairness exercised by the trial judge Ssekaana Musa the supreme court sentenced a one Ssebadduka to three years in jail for contempt or disrespect of court. Since there is no law that bars or sets a limit on the sentence to be passed by the court against contempt, then it was fair that he was granted the 18 months’ sentence”, said Kalali.  

Kalali believes that the judge handed Mabirizi this sentence to deter further contemptuous acts or send a warning to other would-be offenders.

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Mabirizi who is at large has since described Ssekaana’s orders as illegal. “The order is illegal because no man can be a judge in his own cause. SSEKAANA having been clearly stated by Kiryowa Kiwanuka as the person allegedly abused/insulted, could not sit in the case, the same way Judge Phillip Odoki didn't sit in the case where it was alleged that he had been abused’, Mabirizi told URN.    

On February 21st 2022, the Court of Appeal Justice, Christopher Madrama will hear Mabirizi's application seeking to stay execution of all orders issued by Justice Ssekaana against him including his conviction and subsequent sentencing to prison.

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