By Gaaki Kigambo
As the magistrate court at Buganda Road resumes hearing of cases against Stella Nyanzi on Monday April 25, focus is likely to extend to the declining state of fundamental rights in Uganda and that of the Constitutional Court.
Its wheels have yet to move on a petition filed nearly 15 months ago challenging sections of the Computer Misuse Act (CMA) against which she is being charged for harassing and offending President Yoweri Museveni.
Dr Nyanzi, a social researcher at Makerere University was kidnapped by unknown people on the night of Friday, April 7, around the headquarters of the Internal Security Organisation.
She was addressing a Rotary fellowship at a nearby hotel.
A day later Police acknowledged it was holding her.
When she appeared in court on Monday April 10, Dr Nyanzi’s charge sheet indicated two counts of cyber harassment and offensive communication contrary to Sections 24 (1 and 2a) and 25 of the CMA enacted in 2011, that had been drawn two weeks earlier on March 23 and sanctioned by the Director of Public Prosecutions on March 27, weeks before her arrest.
The court remanded her to Luzira Maximum Security Prison for 14 days.
Section 25 in particular, which is about offensive communication, is a subject of a constitutional petition filed on February 3, 2016 by Andrew Karamagi and Robert Shaka.
The charges against Dr Nyanzi were first drawn on March 23, 2017 and sanctioned four days later. They followed hours-long interrogation on March 7, 2016.
Dr Nyanzi, who uses expletives, allegedly insulted Museveni on her Facebook page by calling him “a pair of buttocks” on January 28.
But a review of her timeline shows she posted nothing at all on that said day.
Besides being the butt of all jokes, the charges have continued to draw widespread condemnation across the country and beyond its borders.
Most recently on Wednesday, April 19, Amnesty International demanded her immediate release, saying she was a “prisoner of conscience, held solely for exercising her right to freedom of expression.”
“Her continued detention and prosecution violate Uganda’s obligations under the country’s constitution and international human rights law regarding the rights to liberty and freedom of expression,” read its call to action; a mechanism through which it mobilises global attention.
That Dr Nyanzi and her lawyers were surprised with a government application to subject her to a sanity test after her first appearance in court is only helping attract more scrutiny and interest on the trial and its associated human rights issues.
Source : The East African