Accused persons who are innocent must be discharged, have charges withdrawn/vacated but not ‘pardoned’
Your post contains in part the following sentence:
“A lot of people in prison over politically motivated charges should be forgiven. Our sheikhs should be pardoned, and let them go back to their families.”
It is well known that several Ugandan sheikhs are in prison/detention in Uganda mainly under the following categories.
(i) Some are being tried before the High Court after a long period of detention – eg Sheikh Muhammad Yunus Kamoga, who was arrested on 20th January 2015, being tried with several others.
(ii) While other sheikhs have been recently detained so far without any known charge(s) being brought against them before any competent court of law – eg Sheikh Yahaya Mwanje, who was arrested on 27 November 2016.
(iii) Some have been acquitted by the High Court of Uganda in the past but re-arrested immediately after acquittal – eg Sheikh Ismail Kalule.
Since none of the sheikhs has so far been convicted of any offence by a competent court of law, they, individually and/or collectively, do not deserve to be granted ‘pardon’ – forgiveness/amnesty. ‘Pardon’ is not granted after the prosecution has failed to bring or prove charges against an accused person.
When the prosecution fails to prove charges (beyond reasonable doubt) brought against an accused person, charges may be either withdrawn or vacated and criminal proceedings are terminated without prejudice to accused’s presumption of innocence or the prosecution’s right to bring new charges at a later date if there is sufficient evidence to do so. This is what the International Criminal Court (ICC) did after the ICC Prosecutor failed to adduce evidence to prove charges against President Uhuru Kenyatta of Kenya and Vice President William Ruto of Kenya. Charges were withdrawn/ vacated and both Kenyatta and Ruto were discharged from criminal process but not ‘pardoned’.
Thus, since accused persons in Uganda are presumed innocent until proved guilty, they are entitled to the equal protection of the law including a right to a speedy and fair hearing before an independent court in accordance with the Constitution. Sheikhs are human beings like anyone else and must not be denied the equal protection of the law. Either they are, without undue delay, tried by a competent court and convicted (if there is evidence to prove beyond reasonable doubt any charge/s against them) or they are discharged from criminal process (if there is insufficient evidence). Those who are being detained without charges must be brought before courts of law but many of the so-called Muslim leaders are in silence!
 The Prosecutor v. Uhuru Muigai Kenyatta, Decision on the withdrawal of charges against Mr Kenyatta, ICC-01/09-02/11-1005, 13 March 2015, https://www.icc-cpi.int/CourtRecords/CR2015_02842.PDF
 The Prosecutor v. William Samoei Ruto and Joshua Arap Sang, Decision on Defence Applications for Judgments of Acquittal, ICC-01/09-01/11, 5 April 2016, https://www.icc-cpi.int/CourtRecords/CR2016_04384.PDF
Sorry if my earlier statement on ‘pardoning’ of sheikhs was too cryptic. I’m afraid there are gaping holes in my legal education. I’m mainly self-schooled, and I now deeply regret focusing only on those things that interest me at the time. However, I do think I see what you mean here.
If it’s any consolation, you aren’t alone in what you feel. I’m sure the sheikhs feel as ‘innocent-till-proven-guilty’ as you do. Not to be too crude about it, but the claims that the law will help them eventually get out of prison, seem to ring a little hollow. By definition, it seems to me that the concept of ‘conviction’ and ‘persecution failure’ is deceptive under the current political environment in Uganda and, if the entire experience of Sheikh Ismail Kalule and the black mambas that rearrested Besigye after being granted bail in 2006 is any indication, impossible to attain, except in a very limited and temporary sense. The law now operating in Uganda is the super ‘Museveni law’: what Museveni wants goes, if he wants you out of prison, you’re out the next day; and if he wants you to stay in prison, trust me, no judge will get you out. Therefore, I don’t see the sheikhs coming out of prison on their terms.
Having said that, it appears we are somewhat stuck, as in quicksand, and there are no easy solutions in sight. I do not have any easy answers, my friends. That’s the rub. No one else has easy answers, either, but there’s nothing wrong with approaching Mr.Museveni and BEG him to ‘pardon’ our sheikhs. One definition of Museveni’s ‘PARDON-LAW’ is a quick phone call to the prosecutor to ‘WITHDRAW’ the charges, and ordering the bank of Uganda to give you, lawyers, a juicy cheque such that you stop making noise. Either way, it’s all ‘pardon’, my friend!
I’ve very conflicted on this whole mess, and I am uncomfortable admitting that, when the murders started, I advocated for the arming of sheikhs with guns to defend themselves, but with the death of Maama Fiina’s husband who was armed to the teeth, turns out I was flat out wrong on that one, as the evidence is now clear that this is way well planned ‘James-bond’ stuff than any of us envisaged. It has even made me afraid of ‘bodabodas’ driving by every time i visit Kampala.
Most of us just don’t know what to think anymore. Yet, somehow, I feel that there’s no ‘justice’ in keeping sheikhs in prison indefinitely in a situation which looks like has got less to do with them. Most of us in the general public are in no position to be able to form our own independent opinions of what and who exactly is behind the Muslim murders in Uganda, because it is all kept from us in an atmosphere of secrecy. And add to that the problem that most of the public relies on the media, and you get a further degradation of the information available. Yet, I can also speak with some certainty that the way these murders are executed is way beyond the likes of the sheikhs that are already in prison, and the government has got no ability to thwart them from happening again and again.
Yes, there are reasons for some secrecy in national security matters. That complicates honesty in politics beyond belief, and it breeds distrust, by the very nature of secrecy and the demonstrated proclivity of some politicians for deceit. And yes, politicians are very much motivated by power and ego issues, it seems. At the same time, I would suggest that a dedicated press and free and open discussion are the bright light that we can usually count on to help us engage in a truth seeking process, as a public.
However, now that someone has created this mess, we need to fix what has been broken, and I don’t think the courts are gonna do that. I think this administration has strangled itself in its own propaganda (e.g. its ADF killing Muslim leaders). People can only be fooled so far. I think they’ve exceeded their limit by a long shot.
My hope is that the sheikhs are ‘pardoned’ with the touch of the ‘MUSEVENI-LAW’ (the most important law in Uganda), and then we all sit down and find a way forward. I don’t feel that it matters, in this context, whether the sheikhs are guilty or not in the eyes of the law, as there is no way to go back in time and undo the mess.
Just a few non-classified thoughts of a Xmas evening from a nobody in the UK,brother!
Have a good one,