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Huddersfield Solicitors Support Appeal to Uganda’s President

by Ridley&Hall in News posted February 4, 2014.

A group of Huddersfield solicitors have raised concerns about political interference with the judiciary in Uganda with the Law Society of England and Wales.

In November 2013 solicitors Sarah Young and John Royle from Ridley & Hall, Anne Pendlebury from Eaton Smith and Fraser Hirst from Baxter Caulfield, spent a week in Kampala, Uganda at the invitation of the Ugandan Law Society to provide training.  A unique twinning link between the Huddersfield Law Society and the Ugandan Law Society has been in existence for over a decade.

The Huddersfield solicitors were deeply concerned to hear from their colleagues in Uganda that President Yoweri Museveni has unconstitutionally reappointed the Chief Justice, the Honourable Justice Benjamin Joseph Odoki who last year reached the mandated retiring age of 70.

Mr Odoki turned 70 on 23rd March last year and then served a 3 month extension until 23rd June.  He has served in the judiciary for 35 years and as chief justice for the last 12 years.

According to the Ugandan constitution a new chief justice must be appointed by the President acting on the advice of the Judicial Service Commission (JSC) and with the approval of parliament.  Reports suggest that in the case of Mr Odoki’s reappointment, the JSC was not consulted – it has described his reappointment as ‘unlawful’.

The Law Society’s Human Rights Committee has written at the request of the Huddersfield Law Society twinning group to President Museveni calling for the rule of law to be adhered to and for a new Chief Justice to be appointed.

Professor Sara Chandler, Chair of the Human Rights Committee said, “The Law Society urges President Yoweri Museveni to comply with the Ugandan constitution and, in the appointment of a new chief justice, select one of the persons whose names have been submitted by the Judicial Service Commission.

Adhering to these processes will guarantee compliance with Uganda’s constitution, insure the maintenance of the independence of the judiciary in Uganda and show respect for the nation’s judges, the rule of law and the independence of the judiciary.”

Sarah Young commented:

“Lawyers in Uganda play a vital role in protecting the rule of law.  My colleagues and I feel that it should be a matter of concern to lawyers internationally when politicians seek to influence judicial appointments and we are very pleased that our national law society is providing support publicly to our colleagues in Uganda.”

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