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(Jul 23, 2010) It was reported on July 15, 2010, that in the wake of a terrorist attack on July 11 in Kampala that claimed 74 civilian lives, the Ugandan Parliament passed into law the Regulation of Interception of Communications Bill, 2007. The legislators insisted that there be judicial oversight of the process of communications interception, despite arguments put forward by the Ministry of Security that it should be in charge. The law will take effect after being approved by the President of Uganda. (Joyce Namutebi & Milton Olupot, Parliament Passes Phone Tapping Bill, THE NEW VISION (July 15, 2010), http://www.newvision.co.ug/D/8/13/725938.)

Under the bill, a warrant for interception of communications is only valid for three months and may be issued if there is a "reasonable ground for a High Court judge to believe" that:

· a felony that puts lives in danger has been or is being or will probably be committed;

· the gathering of information concerning an actual threat to national security or to any national economic interest is necessary;

· the gathering of information concerning a potential threat to public safety, national security, or any national economic interest is necessary; or

· there is a threat to the national interest involving the state's international relations or obligations. (Id.; Regulation of Interception of Communications Bill, §5.)

The initial language of the bill gave the authority to issue wiretapping warrants to the Minister for Security, a member of the executive branch of government. Parliament, however, on the recommendation of its Sessional Committee on Information and Communications Technology (ICT), decided to place such authority with the High Court in the final version of the bill (id.) In making the recommendation, ICT argued that it was not appropriate to entrust the Minister for Security with the authority to issue warrants, as that would result in a conflict of interest and possible violations of the right to privacy. (Hanibal Goitom, Courts to Get Authority to Issue Warrants Under Phone-Tapping Bill, GLOBAL LEGAL MONITOR (June 30, 2010), http://www.loc.gov/lawweb/s
ervlet/lloc_news?disp3_l205402079_text
.)

Amama Mbabazi, the current Ugandan Minister for Security, pleaded with Parliament to empower his office with the authority to issue warrants, without success. He argued that it was common for the authority to issue warrants for wiretapping to be placed with the executive body and cited the United Kingdom and Zimbabwe as examples. (Namutebi & Olupot, supra.) Mbabazi also argued that it was inappropriate to entrust the judiciary with such authority because of the nature of the security threats the country faces. The Members of Parliament were not convinced by his arguments, however. (Id.)

Author: Hanibal Goitom More by this author
Topic: Communications More on this topic
Jurisdiction: Uganda More about this jurisdiction

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Last updated: 07/23/2010