KAMPALA – The Uganda Law Society (ULS) president, Mr Simon Peter Kinobe, and human rights lawyer Eron Kiiza have clashed over the latter’s use of social media to condemn the manner in High Court Judge Joseph Murangira handled a land wrangle in Mubende District.
Mr Kizza recently petitioned the Chief Justice, accusing Justice Murangira of backing those who evicted about 3,000 people from five villages in Mubende. He said since started a social media campaign to condemn the conduct of the judge.
But Mr Kinobe said by Mr Kizza referring to Justice Murangira as a mafia is against the principles of justice of fairness and justice.
“As president Uganda Law Society, I take exception to this conduct and remind you of the advocates by virtue of their appointment are officials of court and as learned friends, we espouse, protect and uphold the principle of a fair hearing,” Mr Kinobe’s July 17 letter to Mr Kiiza reads in part.
The ULS president added that by Mr Kiiza using social media to harangue a judicial officer is contrary to the Advocates Professional Conduct Regulations and tantamount to criminality.
“By using social media to attack a judicial officer, you violate this rule and deny the judge an opportunity to be heard,” Mr Kinobe added. “The purpose of this letter is to, therefore, request that you pull down the said offensive posts,” he said.
But Mr Kizza, in a July 18 letter, said an advocate and friend of courts of law, he cannot turn a blind eye as impunity reigns.
“That should never blind them into shielding themselves and the public from the necessity of war on judicial impunity whenever its nauseating head sprouts. As tasty as judicial independence is the sweet aroma of judicial accountability,” he said.
He also defended his use of social media to attack the judge. “With calling for justice on social media, as advocates, are we supposed to only whisper about such matters in our courts and chambers?” he said.
“Social media gives life and meaning to freedom. I take strong exception to the innuendo that I am a human rights violator when I have spent most of my legal career advocating for human rights. I am sure, contrary to your suggestions, I committed no crime using social media to give a voice to the problems of the people of Mubende evicted from five villages,” he added.
Mr Kiiza says the ULS president has not fully understood the context under which he made the Facebook posts.
“It is pretty obvious that you are yet to grasp the depth of the pain and paucity of the people of Mubende evicted from the five villages and the dilemma the persons are trying to ensure that they get a voice – one that has been muzzled by a clogged system,” he wrote.
“But I would expect you and the interests you represent to know that freedom of speech offline permeates the offline realm,” he added.
The Chief Justice recently wrote to Justice Murangira to defend himself against the allegations labeled against him.
“I have received the attached complaint in which adverse comments/allegations have been made against you. Please give me your response on the allegations against you as to enable me respond to the complaints,” Mr Katureebe said in a letter.