Francistown High Court Judge Lot Moroka last week came hard on government for denying two deported Ugandan political refugees, Musa Isabirye and Timothy Yamin their right to consult with their legal representative prior to their deportation.
The two refugees who had a two year long legal tussle with government over living conditions at Dukwi Refugee Camp were deported on the 25 of October 2015 after they were declared “undesirable inhabitants” by President Ian Khama.
Justice Moroka had on 23rd October 2015ordered that that the two refugees should not be deported pending finalization of their case with government. The refugees fell out with government complaining over poor living conditions at Dukwi Refugee Camp where they were staying.
On Monday, the applicants’ attorney, Martin Dingake challenged the decision by government to deport the two refugees and said that government should be held in contempt of court. He said The Attorney General, Athalia Molokomme who is cited as first respondent, Commissioner of Police Keabetswe Makgophe cited as second respondent, Commissioner of Prisons and Rehabilitation, Silas Motlalekgosi cited as third respondent and six junior police officers should be committed to prison. He also said that the government should be ordered to pay the costs of the application.
“The uncontroverted evidence before court is that upon legal representatives of the applicants seeking to consult their applicants and between the times the order was moved and granted the applicants were moved from First Offenders Prison to Sir Seretse Khama Police Station,” he said.
Dingake said when he sought to consult with his clients he was denied an opportunity to do so and there were half attempts to allow such consultation only on two unacceptable and unlawful conditions.
“One, that the consultation will last for two minutes and two that the consultation will take place with officers listening into our conversation .It is these conditions to the consultation and the refusal by the police to have full and unhindered consultation with the applicants that has given birth to the current application for contempt of court,” Dingake told the court.
On the other hand Ndiye Nkurumah Balule from the Attorney General, argued that the applicant’s lawyer, Dingake did not file for power of attorney therefore he did not have authority to represent the two refugees in court and apply for contempt of court. He further said that the refugees could not have full access to their legal representative as they had been declared a security threat by the President. He argued that the President has a right to do so even if he does not declare his reasons.
In his ruling Justice Moroka agreed that the two Ugandan refugees had a right to be given ample time to consult with their attorney. He also added that the power of an attorney in this case is immaterial therefore the case should continue.
“The power of attorney as challenged by the respondents in this case does not hold water because the applicants were denied a chance to consult with their attorney. How could they have gotten that authority when they were denied the right to consult their lawyer,” he said.
Both parties filed heads of argument and judgment will be delivered on the 20 of November 2015.