The International Crimes Division of the High Court has dismissed an application in which jailed Members of Parliament Muhammad Ssegirinya and Allan Ssewanyana wanted two criminal files of charges against them consolidated.
Lady Justice Alice Komuhangi Khauka on Wednesday dismissed the application on grounds that consolidation of criminal cases is alien and doesn’t exist in the procedure of criminal matters and laws in Uganda, save for civil matters.
On November 21, 2021, Masaka Chief Magistrate’s court committed the MPs together with Jackson Kanyike, John Mugerwa, Bull Wamala, Mike Sserwadda, and Jude Muwonge to face trial in the International Crimes Division on a string of charges including murder, attempted murder, aiding, and abetting terrorism.
The charges stem from their alleged involvement in the Masaka machete killings which occurred between March and June 2021 and claimed more than 20 people before leaving scores injured.
But as these charges were pending committal, the MPs were granted bail on September 21st, 2021 pending their trial.
However, MPs were arrested on separate occasions and charged with murdering Joseph Bwanika, a resident of Kingo Sub-county in Lwengo District eight days later.
As a result, the Masaka file containing terrorism charges was separated from the Lwengo file of murder, and all the seven suspects in the terrorism committed to the International Crimes Division were to face trial.
But the Lwengo file where the MPs are charged with Wilson Ssenyonga was instead committed to the Masaka High Court for trial where it is still pending.
Last week when the file containing terrorism charges was before the court, lawyers representing the MPs asked Court to consolidate the files to avoid abuse of the Court process.
The lawyers comprised Samuel Muyizzi Mulindwa, Erias Lukwago, Medard Lubega Sseggona, and Shamim Malende argued that although the charges are contained in two separate files, they arise from the same set of facts/transactions, and therefore to avoid prejudice, they ought to be merged.
The lawyers further informed Court that the charges have a common theme, set of circumstances, and common questions of the law and fact which can be conclusively determined by one Court.
But in response to the application, the prosecution led by Richard Birivumbuka and Joseph Kyomuhendo opposed the case and raised a preliminary point of law seeking dismissal of the application.
The prosecutors relied on an affidavit of Thomas Jatiko the Assistant Director of Public Prosecutions who argued that the two files are totally different with different questions of the law and fact and cannot be determined by the ICD court.
Jatiko added that the files are factually different and cases cannot be joined in the same charge sheet or indictment and that they were committed in different places at different times, in different ways, with different parties both accused and victims, and with different motives.
Court heard that the two cases are also before different courts with different trial procedures and joining the charges and parties is likely to cause a miscarriage of justice.
However, in her ruling on Wednesday, Komuhangi agreed with the prosecutors saying that consolidation would have been possible had Ssegirinya and Ssewanyana been the only ones appearing on the Lwengo charge sheet without Ssenyonga.
Komuhangi indicated that Ssenyonga’s name on the charge sheet makes it impossible for the cases to be consolidated because he doesn’t appear on the Masaka file of terrorism.
“Ssenyonga is a total stranger to the case before this court. As such, bringing Ssenyonga to the case before this court with the accused persons he is not connected to in any way and charges he is not aware of would be a misjoinder of persons “, added Komuhangi.
She dismissed the application saying failure by the court to order the joinder of charges and persons doesn’t prejudice their right to a fair hearing and that they can be safely and fairly charged separately since the consolidation of criminal matters is alien to the laws of this country.
Komuhangi added that she cannot consolidate what is not before her.
One of the defense lawyers Samuel Muyizzi Mulindwa said that they are going to consult their clients and see whether to challenge it because they do not want that decision to remain on the court record.