The Ugandan Constitutional Court Tuesday declared a section of the Computer Misuse Act, No. 2 of 2011 void with enforcement banned. Section 25 of the act prohibited any person from “willfully and repeatedly [using] electronic communication to disturb or attempt to disturb the peace, quiet or right of privacy of any person with no purpose of legitimate communication.” The petitioners claimed section 25 was overly vague and limited free speech. The court agreed with the petitioner’s arguments.Petitioners Andrew Karamagi and Robert Shaka stated in their arguments that the vagueness of section 25 violated article 28 of the constitution. Article 28 requires all laws to define the behavior which would constitute an offense. Karamagi alleged in his original 2016 affidavit that the section “provide[d] the director of Public Prosecution unbridled administrative and prosecutorial discretion.” However, the Ugandan Attorneys General Office countered his claim. The office stated all potential prosecutions under section 25 would proceed only if evidence was available. The court rejected this idea. In their decision, the court ruled the wording violated article 28 in its failure to provide notice. The section provided no defined criminal behavior to the public.Additionally, Karamagi and Shaka stated section 25 directly conflicted with article 29. Article 29(1)(a) enshrines the right to freedom of speech, expression and the media. Karamagi stated the government used the act to “selectively prosecute” persons with views considered unfavorable to those in positions of power. Conversely, the government asserted its right to limit freedom of speech with article 43 of the constitution. Article 43 allows the government to restrict certain rights. They may limit rights to protect other’s rights of enjoying their own freedoms. Again, the court found the government’s argument had no merit. The government failed to provide any evidence on how prosecutions under the law protected another person’s freedoms. The court went further to say, “Provisions relating to the fundamental human rights and freedoms should be given purposive and generous interpretation.”The Ugandan government is facing numerous lawsuits brought by journalists and civil action groups. Amendments to a different section the Computer Misuse Act in 2022 are currently under litigation. The current lawsuits again cite intentional vagueness with alleged political motivations.
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