[JURIST] Leading Thursday's international brief, the civilian criminal trial of Ugandan opposition leader Dr. Kizza Besigye [BBC profile] and his 22 co-defendants has been postponed until after the upcoming national elections in Uganda. Ugandan Deputy Director for Public Prosecutions Simon Byabakama Mugenyi was forced to ask for a continuance after Besigye's defense lawyers challenged the government's indictment as 'fundamentally flawed' and legally insufficient to sustain a trial. The indictment is vague in reference to whom Besigye is supposed to have committed treason [JURIST report] with and, since Ugandan law requires specific names for a valid charge of treason, Besigye's lawyers argued the indictment failed to set out a valid criminal charge. Once the prosecutor asked for a delay to prepare a response, the court held that the upcoming elections would be too much of a distraction and ordered a recess until March. JURIST's Paper Chase has continuing coverage of Uganda [JURIST news archive]. Uganda's Monitor Online has local coverage.
In related news, The Ugandan Army and police forces have defied a court order to release Besigye's co-defendants who are able to meet their bail requirements. Under Ugandan law, criminal defendants may be released once bail has been met, but defendants in military courts-martial are detained until and during trial. At a hearing held Thursday, High Court Justice Vincent Kagaba ordered 14 of the 22 men released if they could make bail, but once the men left the prison, they were immediately detained by soldiers and police officers who returned them to a detention facility pending the general court-martial. Military officials have indicated that they will proceed with the court-martial [JURIST report] even though the Ugandan Constitutional Court [judicial website] has said the military proceedings are invalid [JURIST report]. The men's defense lawyers were told to "not even think about" continuing their appeal for the defendants' release. Uganda's Monitor Online has local coverage.
In other international legal news ...
- The Sudan People's Liberation Movement (SPLM) [party website] has forced a major concession from the Sudanese government [official website] as six "presidential decrees" dealing with topics from national security to NGOs were withdrawn and scheduled to be presented as legislation. The SPLM challenged the decrees as legislative in nature rather than executive and argued that Sudanese President Omar al-Bashir [BBC profile], a member of the ruling National Congress Party, was trying to use the decrees as a method to get around parliamentary debate on important issues. The six decrees are now scheduled to be presented to the Sudanese parliament as legislation, allowing debate and amendment to adjust some of the provisions, including details of an NGO bill that international NGOs warned would almost completely cut aid to the Darfur region [JURIST news archive] of Sudan. JURIST's Paper Chase has continuing coverage of Sudan [JURIST news archive]. The Sudan Tribune has local coverage.
- One of the leaders of the Seven Party Alliance in Nepal, K. P. Oli, has said that it is too late for any effort on the part of King Gyanendra [official profile] to resolve the current antipathy between the opposition political groups and the ruling monarchy. Oli made his remarks in response to a call by US Ambassador to Nepal James F. Moriarty for cooperation and negotiation between the two sides of the current simmering conflict in Nepal over Gyanendra's seizure of absolute control [JURIST report] last February. Oli said that only a complete relinquishing of absolute powers by the monarchy will allow Nepal to return to a peaceful state and rejected calls to exclude the Maoist forces from involvement in the push for a new government. JURIST's Paper Chase has continuing coverage of Nepal [JURIST news archive]. NepalNews.com has local coverage.