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.
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
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