President threatens Constitutional Court

yoweri_museveniThe ICJ today expressed concern at remarks reportedly made by the President of Uganda Yoweri Museveni, which could be viewed as an attempt to intimidate the Ugandan judiciary.

“The President has reacted rashly to a decision of the Constitutional Court” said Nicholas Howen, Secretary General of the ICJ.

“The independence of the judiciary and the separation of powers is enshrined in the Ugandan Constitution and international standards. The courts must be allowed to carry out their duties without fear of veiled threats if the executive does not approve of their decisions” added Nicholas Howen.

On 25 June 2004, the Constitutional Court of Uganda ruled that the 2000 Referendum Act, legislation under which Ugandans voted to retain one-party rule, was invalid as its procedural enactment was inconsistent with the nations’ Constitution.

In a 27 June 2004 televised response to the judgment, President Yoweri Museveni rejected the ruling of the Constitutional Court and reportedly warned that “Those who want to play games can play with other things but not this one. No authority, not even the judges, will be allowed to usurp the power of the people to choose how they will be governed… There were times when, if a judge made such a ruling, he would not live to see tomorrow.”

Subsequently the Government indicated it would appeal the Constitutional Court’s decision to the Supreme Court. “We welcome the Government’s willingness to test the legal merits of the decision through the normal course of an appeal to the highest court,” said Nicholas Howen “and trust that this will be the end of statements that threaten the independence of the judiciary.”

Following the remarks of President Museveni a public protest against the decision outside a court building halted the operation of these courts in Kampala.


Section 128 of The Constitution of the Republic of Uganda, judicial independence is expressly guaranteed as “the courts shall be independent and shall not be subject to the control or direction of person or authority” while “no person or authority shall interfere with the courts or judicial officers in the exercise of their judicial functions.” This constitutional guarantee is also reflected through Article 26 of the African Charter on Human and Peoples’ Rights, to which Uganda is party, and the United Nations Basic Principles on the Independence of the Judiciary.

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