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Uganda Law Society Petitions Gov't to Clear Movement for Lawyers

On May 8th 2020, High Court Civil Division Judge Michael Elubu directed that government provides detailed mechanisms to ensure that all lawyers access their clients.
Left to Right; Lawyers Harimwomugasho, Isaac Ssemakadde and Nicholas Opiyo at Court

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The Uganda Law Society has petitioned the Ministry of Health to clear its members to move to all courts without restrictions. The call comes barely a day after President Yoweri Museveni announced restriction of movement across districts as a new measure to control the spread of COVID-19.

Uganda Law Society President Pheona Nabasa Wall says that 95 per cent of lawyers are based in Kampala and have to travel to various districts to represent their clients. She adds that they have written to the Permanent Secretary of the Ministry of Health to clear the Advocates who can prove that they have cases upcountry so that they can attend to them.

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According  to a  circular issued on Monday,  the Chief Justice Alfonse  Owiny-Dollo suspended all court hearings including  hearing of election petitions for 42 days.   He ordered that within these 42 days, the courts will  be attending to only urgent matters like plea taking while observing the standard operating procedures.

The Chief Justice further ordered that  for the cases at the stage of submissions , the respective courts may advise the lawyers or  parties to file written submissions through email addresses provided by the court.

"Judicial Officers handling urgent business must operate in court halls or open space at the courts. Whenever practicable, virtual hearing of cases should be adhered to including insisting on written submissions, use of email, online delivery of judgements and audio visual hearings and other modes of contactless communication.

Another lawyer Richard Kumbuga says that restricting their movements  in one district as lawyers it's not fair because a client may be arrested  like from  Masaka and that person's lawyer is in Kampala and he wonders how such people will have their right to Counsel safeguarded.

He adds that there is need to talk to government to clear them to move to avoid disobeying the presidential directives.

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The grievances by lawyers come at the moment when there is no serving Attorney General in office as the head of the bar, since the tenure of office for the outgoing one, William Byaruhanga expired on May 12th 2021 after swearing in of the new government which hasn't yet had Cabinet members appointed.

On May 8th 2020, High Court Civil Division Judge Michael Elubu directed government to provide detailed mechanisms to ensure that all lawyers access their clients.

  The then head of that court reasoned that government needed to provide the mechanisms to guard against the constitutional rights violation as a result of the Covid-19 lockdown. 

As a result, the lawyers were considered essential until yesterday when the President issued new directives.  

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