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Embattled UNBS boss Ebiru moves to block trial in Anti-Corruption court

David Livingstone Ebiru appearing before MPs

David Livingstone Ebiru appearing before MPs

The Attorney General has asked the Anti Corruption court to dismiss an application in which the former executive director of Uganda National Bureau of Standards (UNBS) David Livingstone Ebiru is seeking to halt his trial on bribery charges until investigations are completed.

The prosecution alleges that between October and December 2022, Ebiru offered a gratification of Shs 100 million to Charles Masekuura, the chairperson of the UNBS board, in an attempt to secure his position as the executive director of UNBS. On August 8, 2023, the Chief Magistrate's court issued a warrant of arrest against Ebiru, directing the police to arrest him immediately upon sight.

However, efforts to arrest him have been unsuccessful, he instead filed a case against the attorney general, challenging the trial and an application seeking to halt the trial. Ebiru argues that he is aggrieved by the Inspectorate of Government’s (IGG) decision to prematurely sanction charges against him without conducting prior investigations.

He seeks to halt the trial, contending that his fundamental rights and freedoms were violated by the IGG’s actions in issuing a warrant of arrest and preferring charges. Ebiru also claims that there is a pending warrant of arrest in the Anti-Corruption court, and there is an imminent threat of its enforcement, rendering his application useless. In the main substantive case, Ebiru seeks to have the criminal summons, warrant of arrest, and trial declared illegal.

Through his lawyers at Web Advocates, Ebiru also requests a permanent injunction against the IGG and her agents from instituting charges against him and an order for compensation against the government for violating his fundamental rights. 

When the matter came up for hearing before justice Jane Okuo Kajuga, the attorney general through principal state attorney Wanyama Kodoli asked the court to dismiss the application for a temporary injunction on grounds that the Anti-corruption court division (ACD) has no jurisdiction to hear human rights enforcement matters which have been brought before it.

Wanyama said the ACD was established as a specialized division whose authority purely lies only in hearing corruption-related cases. He said that as such, the nature of the application brought before it by Ebiru is a civil matter which should have been filed elsewhere.

In response, Ebiru's lawyer said the Human Rights Enforcement Act gives the High court and Magistrates court which are handling criminal matters authority to interrogate human rights violations that emanate from their courts. He added that the court itself where these matters are may rely on civil law or procedure and issue an injunction halting the proceedings because the same law doesn't vest jurisdiction in any court.

After listening to both parties, justice Kajuga has fixed September 19 to deliver her decision on the matter. While it is alleged that Ebiru admitted to bribing the UNBS board with Shs 100 million to evade suspension, which he allegedly borrowed, he contends that he made these statements out of anger and has never actually bribed anyone.

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