The right to bail pending trial in Uganda

Author: Jamil Ddamulira Mujuzi

ISSN: 1996-2118
Affiliations: LLB (Makerere) LLM (Pretoria) LLM (Free State) LLD (Western Cape), Professor of Law, Faculty of Law, University of the Western Cape
Source: South African Journal of Criminal Justice, Volume 34 Issue 3, p. 461 – 481


Article 23(6)(a) of the Constitution of Uganda (1995) states that an arrested person is ‘entitled’ to apply to court for bail (discretionary bail). Articles 23(b) and (c) require a court to release on bail a person who has been awaiting trial in custody for a specified number of days (mandatory bail). Jurisprudence of Ugandan courts on bail pending trial shows that courts have dealt with two main issues: the right to bail or to apply for bail; and the conditions for granting of discretionary bail pending trial. The Supreme Court has held that an accused has a right to apply for bail. In this article, the author argues that the drafting history of Article 23(6)(a) shows that an accused has a right to bail (as opposed to just apply for bail). The author also demonstrates how courts have been inconsistent in many cases when dealing with the conditions for granting of discretionary bail pending trial. It is argued further that since the Ugandan government is increasingly re-arresting opposition politicians who have been granted bail by the high court, Ugandan courts may explore the possibility of granting anticipatory bail. It is also argued that the drafting history of Articles 129(d) and 210 of the Constitution shows that courts martial are courts of judicature and subordinate to the high court which means, inter alia, that the high court has the power to release an accused on bail should the general court martial refuse to release him/her on bail.