Practice Relating to Rule 100. Fair Trial Guarantees
Section M. Right to appeal
Uganda’s Defence Forces Act (2005) provides:
227. Jurisdiction of appellate courts
(1) A party to the proceedings of a Unit Disciplinary Committee or court martial other than a Field Court Martial who is not satisfied with its decision shall have the right to appeal to an appellate court on any or all of the following matters –
(a) the legality or propriety of any or all of the findings;
(b) the legality of the whole or part of the sentence;
(c) the severity or lenience of the sentence.
228. Advice on the rights of appeal
(1) The Unit Disciplinary Committee or court martial shall, at the conclusion of the trial, inform the parties to its proceedings as to their rights of appeal.
In the Kotido Field Court Martial case in 2008, which related to a Field Court Martial held in 2002 that had, within the space of three hours, resulted in the indictment, conviction and then execution of two soldiers for the crime of murder, Uganda’s Constitutional Court unanimously ruled that accused persons in Field Court Martials were entitled, as of right, to appeal through the Military Courts system up to the Supreme Court. In the lead judgment, Twinomujuni J stated:
At the trial of this appeal, both counsel for the petitioners and the respondent appeared to accept the argument that the UPDF [Uganda People’s Defence Forces] Act does not provide for a right to appeal against the decision of a Field Court Martial.
I am unable to tell precisely how they came to that conclusion.
Twinomujuni J also stated:
Article 22(1) of the Constitution provides:
Protection of Right to Life
(1) No person shall be deprived of life intentionally except in execution of a sentence passed in a fair trial by a court of competent jurisdiction in respect of a criminal offence under the laws of Uganda and the conviction and sentence have been confirmed by the highest appellate court.
Twinomujuni J further stated:
I stated earlier in this judgment that article 45 supra
of our Constitution clearly states that Chapter IV of the Constitution is not exhaustive of fundamental human rights and freedoms available to the people of Uganda. An automatic right of appeal where one’s fundamental rights and freedoms have been violated is one good example. In the instant case the accused persons in the Kotido trial were entitled to a right to life guaranteed under article 22(1) of the Constitution. The right of appeal was therefore automatic. A denial of that right was clearly unconstitutional.
Twinomujuni J further stated: “I am unable to accept the argument that [the] UPDF Act does not grant a right of appeal from the decision of a Field Court Martial or any other Military Court.”
Twinomujuni J further stated:
… This does not in any way exempt the court from the mandatory application of article 22(1) of the Constitution, nor does it affect the automatic right of appeal, which I have discussed above. It does not affect the operation of the right of appeal guaranteed by section 81 of the UPDF Act. In the result, I would hold that the accused persons in the Kotido trial were entitled, as of right, to appeal through the Military Courts system up to the Supreme Court. … Unfortunately, the execution of the soldiers in the Kotido trial put an end to this procedure. That was in contravention of article 22(1) of the Constitution of Uganda.