The Centre for Human Rights, Faculty of Law, University of Pretoria (the Centre) expresses concern over claims of retaliatory disciplinary proceedings against a senior judicial officer in Uganda, Justice Esther Kisaakye of the Supreme Court. The Centre understands that the country’s Judicial Service Commission commenced inquiry proceedings into the conduct of Justice Kisaakye after her dissenting decision in the 2021 Presidential election petition filed by opposition leader, Robert Kyagulanyi Sentamu (Bobiwine), against President Yoweri Museveni. In that Petition, the Supreme Court of Uganda denied a later application by Sentamu to be allowed more time to change the main application, stating it was late. Justice Kisaakye, however, dissented on the basis that the applicant's illegal house arrest hindered timely submission.

The Centre is privy to claims that during the hearing of Kyagulanyi’s petition, there were efforts to stop Justice Kisaakye from reading her dissenting opinion, including removing her court file. Justice Kisaakye reportedly insisted and delivered her judgment further escalating the tension between her and the leadership of the Judiciary. The subsequent inquiry by the country’s Judicial Service Commission culminated into a recommendation to the President to invoke Article 144 of the Constitution, namely, to appoint a tribunal for the question of the removal of Justice Kisaakye from office, ‘to be investigated.’

According to the Bangalore Principles of Judicial Conduct, a judge shall exercise the judicial function independently on the basis of the judge’s assessment of the facts and in accordance with a conscientious understanding of the law, free of any extraneous influences, inducements, pressures, threats or interference, direct or indirect, from any quarter or for any reason. Furthermore, in performing judicial duties, a judge shall be independent of judicial colleagues in respect of decisions that the judge is obliged to make independently. Justice Kisaakye was therefore entitled to deliver a dissenting opinion in accordance with the law without interference and fear of any reprisals.

The Centre urges the government of Uganda to desist from subjecting Justice Kisaakye to what is perceived to be retaliatory disciplinary processes as this marks an improper or unjustified interference with judicial processes contrary to Uganda's obligation to ensure and promote judicial independence and the rule of law. In the event that a tribunal is appointed, the Centre calls upon the authorities in Uganda to ensure that any disciplinary hearing is conducted by an impartial and independent tribunal that will respect her right to fair trial.


 Subscribe to our newsletter