Practice Relating to Rule 100. Fair Trial Guarantees
Section E. Necessary rights and means of defence
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:
ADEQUATE TIME AND FACILITIES TO PREPARE A DEFENCE
We have no information as to when (if at all) the accused persons were told of the offence they were going to be indicted on. All we know is that the indictment was read to them in court at 12.50 pm on 25th March 2003. Three hours later, the trial was over and they were dead. It seems to me that they were not accorded any time at all to prepare for their defence. This is contrary even to the provisions of the UPDF [Uganda Peoples Defence Forces] Act and the regulations governing trial procedure in military courts. I have no doubt in my mind that the Field Court martial in the Kotido trial grossly contravened article 28(3)(c) of the Constitution [“be given adequate time and facilities for the preparation of his or her defence”].
THE RIGHT TO LEGAL REPRESENTATION
Article 28(3) (e) of the Constitution categorically states that where an accused person is facing trial on a charge which carries a sentence of death or life imprisonment, he is entitled to legal representation at the expense of the State. This requirement is mandatory. A look at the proceedings of the Court Martial will reveal that the accused was not even informed that he had a right to legal representation. When the prosecution witnesses completed giving evidence, the accused would be given opportunity to cross-examine but in most cases, they had nothing to ask and yet the case had complex issues.
Twinomujuni J further stated:
It is not imaginable, that the accused persons who were not given even a few minutes to reflect on the indictment or the evidence against them, would be able to ask of the state witnesses any intelligent question in cross examination. No wonder then that they totally failed to cross-examine the witnesses.
This gross contravention of article 28(3) (e) of the Constitution cannot be cured by the fact that there was a military legal officer present throughout the trial. … I would hold that the Kotido trial was conducted in total contravention of the provisions of article 28(3) (e) of the Constitution of Uganda.