By Sirajje Lubwama
The General Court martial (GCM) sitting in Makindye has ordered a re-trial of a murder case in which three soldiers were convicted of murder in a record time of one day where prosecution presented ten witnesses were ‘heard’, defence team submitted and sentence passed on the same day.
The trio PC Canon Nkamuhabwa, L/Cpl Johnson Abaasa and Pte Abei Katsigazi were arraigned before a Unit Disciplinary court in Sembabule on July 22, 2017 and charged with several counts including murder, aiding or abetting commission of offence in which they pleaded not guilty.
However, Prosecution in their submission contended that the three on July 20, 2017 went to Sembabule Town,travelling in a vehicle driven by Abaasa and found a group of people in a shop and provoked them into a scuffle. Paul Tumukende one of the people in the shop was gunned down by Nkamuhabwa when he tried to defend himself from the assailants.
On July 20, 2017, were arrested and their trial commenced at the scene of crime on July 20th, barely two days after the commission of the offence. Prosecution lined up ten and seven testified, the three accused persons made their defence but were convicted there and then.
Whereas Nkamuhabwa was sentenced to suffer death in the case of murder and 15 years imprisonment on other counts,both Abaasa and Katsigazi were each sentenced to 15 years and five years for aiding commission and conspiracy respectively thus the appeal to the GCM.
In one of the grounds of appeal, the convicts said the trial court with six members erred in law and facts when they failed to accord the appellants a fair trial occasioning a miscarriage of justice; Nkamuhabwa and Abaasa contend that the trial court erred when they passed a harsh, excessive and illegal sentence.
On his part, Katsigazi said the trial court committed him to prison without awarding a sentence that he was to serve.
In the ruling on Monday before GCM chaired by Lt.Gen. Andrew Gutti, he quashed the trial, conviction and sentence, there by ordering for a retrial before a division court martial at Bombo army court noting that the trial court made breaches and violation of the appellants’ rights.
“The interest of justice requires that the appellants be retried. The retrial would serve the interests of both the appellants and the complainants. In the result, we allow the appeal in part and hereby order a retrial before the Division Court martial of general headquarters Bombo, the first trial court to avoid pre-conceived decisions,” ruled Gutti on Monday.
The court chairman also found out that apart from the trial court contravening Article 28 (3) of the Constitution, GCM also found that the prosecution witnesses refusing to testify on oath contravened section 40 of the Trial and Indictment Act (TIA).
“It is also our finding that appellant No 3 [Katsigazi] is illegally detained since no sentence was awarded. The Respondent [prosecution led by Maj Raphael Mugisha] prayed for retrial. It is our duty not only to ensure that appellants’ rights are not violated but also the victims of the offence are accorded justice,” Gutti said.
The civilian lady lawyer who represented the appellants requested not to be named.