As the National identity-ID card continues to gain currency across various institutions in country, the Court system is still skeptical about relying on it solely to offer bail to citizens. Bail is an agreement between the court, the accused and their sureties committing to return to court when summoned to do so. Court agrees to release the suspects until proven guilty, which grants them temporary freedom. Once suspects apply for bail, they are required to present substantial sureties and valid identification documents including the National IDs among others.
Since the enactment of the law on registration of persons that establishes the provision for the issuance of national and alien identification cards and the ID cards have become key in court processes. However, they are yet to be fully relied on for courts. This reporter set out to establish the complex issues surrounding the National IDs and its acceptability in court.
David Musiri, a student activist at Makerere University has been in and out of jail for various reasons. He said that he was once denied bail, simply because his sureties couldn’t present introductory letters from their Local Council 1 Chairpersons despite presenting their National IDs. He says some of his sureties have had their National IDs confiscated by Court, to their detriment.
Musiri says one is likely to stay on remand simply because the would-be sureties fear handing over their National IDs to court fearing that they could be retained.
Several lawyers interviewed by our reporter say it is a common behavior for courts to confiscate sureties’ National IDs, which contravenes provisions in the Registration of Persons Act, 2015. Human Rights activist and lawyer, Eron Kiiza of Kiiza and Mugisha Company Advocates, says some courts have been making people’s life difficult well knowing the centrality of a national ID in the ordinary life of Uganda today.
Counsel Kiiza argues that some courts go ahead and insist that sureties and persons granted bail must deposit their national IDs with Court and one of the bail terms. “This condition is onerous, very inconvenient and ought to be abandoned by courts even as they have the legal power to insist on depositing the IDs with them. Courts ought to only retain the photocopies,” says Kiiza.
City lawyer Godfrey Akakimpa says prior to the introduction of National IDs, courts were using Village ID and introduction letters from LC 1 and or passports for identification. Akakimpa argues however that at times Police blocks a person’s bail to create ground for bribery.
“Of course retaining someone’s National ID is illegal, the judicial officer is supposed to inspect the ID to confirm whether information on ID corresponds with info given by the surety,” he says.
The Deputy Chief Justice, Alfonse Owiny-Dollo said that the value of a National ID in an interview, saying it answers questions about ones’ citizenship. He says whoever one’s your national ID must be satisfied, unless there is a doubt on its authenticity.
The head of the Constitutional Court further argues that while a National ID is supposed to create way for any citizen, for courts to release someone from bondage, careful consideration must be undertaken since the person is to be released to go out and wait for the hearing from outside the prison.
“That person could flee, that person can do anything and so you need somebody, we say substantial. Somebody who is respectable in society,” Justice Owiny-Dollo said. According to Justice Owiny-Dollo, the National ID only confirms one’s citizenship but does not explain what they do, where they stay, which he says requires an introductory letter preferably from an LC 1.