The case for the removal of bail came to public attention after the president’s opinion upon the arrest of Honorable Allan Ssewanyana and Mohammed Ssegirinya on the ground that they were linked to the Masaka murders. In the process of denied or delayed bail; a number of people came out to share their opinion about the matter including the president of the Republic of Uganda, Yoweri Kaguta Museveni. But before we start the discussion on the removal of bail in murder cases; what is bail?
What is Bail?
According to the Oxford dictionary; bail is, “the temporary release of an accused person awaiting trial, sometimes on condition that a sum of money is lodged to guarantee their appearance in court.” Bail can also be defined as a conditional release of defendants on grounds that they will appear in court whenever required. To guarantee this, sometimes, you may require a number of people to guarantee this. In the process of guaranteeing that the defendant will appear in court whenever required, sometimes a reasonable sum of money must be paid as stated by the Judge or Magistrate.
It should be noted, I am neither a lawyer nor a politician. It is why I think I can attempt to give an honest opinion about this matter.
The Issues At Hand
1 . In Uganda’s law, the suspect is innocent until proven guilty. Every innocent person is entitled to the rights an innocent person has.
2. The complaints suffer grief for years watching the suspect for the murder of their beloved walking around free in society. And if the suspect is truly a serial murderer, there are chances they may murder another person but still walk around free for years until the final verdict from the court.
3. If the suspect is not found guilty after spending years on remand, there is no compensation that can atone for the damage caused. If your case takes five years, no amount of money can compensate for the family time lost in case you are a parent.
4. The president might want to use the no bail benefit against his political opponents so that by the time the trial ends, he has already bought for himself enough time to accomplish whatever he wishes.
Is the president right about the removal of bail in murder cases?
The giving of bail is not automatic. It is not as though once you place your bail request, it must be granted. The Magistrate or the Judge must way the options. This implies that there is a possibility of denial of bail in case the judge is not well convinced about the person asking for bail. This implies that this is the best option to ensure the rights of innocent suspects aren’t trampled.
The president’s concern about the aggrieved is true. Granting bail to a person someone is sure murdered their beloved might sometimes arise into mob justice. But also denying bail to the person everyone assumes is innocent more so when their connection to the case is considered malicious also produces the same grief we find in the former.
Apparently, the president has not looked into the issue of denying bail to a suspect for murder who after 5 years is later found to be innocent. Though we can resonate with the pain of the family that has lost a beloved through murder, we should also resonate with the grief of a family that has to keep seeing their beloved behind bars only to find out later that they were innocent.
The president argues that we can have the trails worked on faster so that it doesn’t take years like it is today. However, this does not still solve the issue of the damage caused to an innocent person on remand even if the case simply takes six months.
When we look into the reasons the president presents for the removal of bail, they are right unfortunately they are already provided for in the current law. Maybe, he should go into detail to explain the new different situations in which a murder suspect is denied bail and when they can be granted bail. This would be a win-win situation since it will tighten the procedures for murder bail but still leave room for bail. The innocent should also be provided for in the law just like he wishes to provide for the aggrieved.
No Bail As A Political Tool
By virtue of the presidential position, he has the capacity to delay the trail long enough to keep his opponents off the public scene. Though the president might claim this is not his agenda, he will not forever be the president of Uganda. And once such a law lands in the hands of that president he claims he is not; then injustice on political opponents is likely to reign through no bail for murder suspects.
With all the above in mind, I think the government should keep the current law about bail and if anything has to change, then based on research they should make adjustments on conditions under which a person is granted bail in a murder case.