The development of Uganda’s military justice system and the right to a fair trial: Old wine in new bottles?
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Abstract: Justice demands that all organs and persons that exercise judicial power should adhere to the standards comprised in the right to a fair trial. In the last two decades, many countries have introduced reforms aimed at ensuring that the administration of justice through military tribunals conforms to these standards. In Uganda, the extent to which the country’s successive military legal frameworks have been progressive in doing this is contestable. This article analyses the historical foundation and evolution of Uganda’s military justice system with respect to the legal protection of the right to a fair trial. The analysis is largely based on desk review. The development of Uganda’s military justice system may be categorised into five major stages: military justice during the colonial era (1895-1962); military justice in the immediate postindependence period (1962-1971); military justice in the Amin era (1971- 1979); military justice under the NRA Codes of Conduct (1986-1992); and military justice under the 2005 Uganda Peoples’ Defence Forces Act (2005 to date). Although compared to the colonial times, there have been some improvements, many of which are said to be or passed off as reforms in the area of protecting fair trial rights in the administration of justice by military courts and are superficial. Many reforms introduced especially after the 1964 Armed Forces Act are reminiscent of the early colonial times, during which time the administration of military justice hardly provided any strong guarantees for the protection and enjoyment of the right to a fair trial. Key words: fair; justice; law; military; rights