State makes a no show at a maternal health rights Supreme Court appeal
By, Serunjogi francis.
Following of the constitutional court’s ruling that constitutional petition No. 16 of 2011 raised a political question which the constitutional court had no power to determine, CEHURD appealed to the Supreme Court asserting that the petition was fully with in the mandate of the constitutional court. The first hearing of the Appeal was scheduled for Friday September 20, 2013 at Supreme Court in Kololo. Human Rights Advocates and legal experts point out that the appeal of this erroneous ruling addresses not only for the right to health, but also the human rights of all Ugandans.
As a means of enforcing the justiciability of the right to health, on 3 March 2011, Petition Number 16 of 2011 was filed in Uganda’s Constitutional Court by the Centre for Health, Human Rights and Development (CEHURD) and others. This ground breaking case argued, among others, that by not providing essential health services and commodities for pregnant women and their new-borns, Government was violating fundamental human rights guaranteed in the Constitution, including the right to health, the right to life, and the rights of women. However, court dismissed the case on grounds of the political question doctrine.
Legal experts argue that the Constitutional Court has the mandate to interpret the Constitution on the matters raised by this case on maternal mortality such as the right to health, the right to life and the rights of women, and all other human rights. This therefore means that if the Supreme Court overturns the ruling by the Constitutional Court, Petition Number 16 of 2011 will be heard on its merits and Constitutional Court will have the chance to play a constructive role in correcting the preventable crisis of 16 pregnant women dying every day in Uganda.
Imagine the frustration therefore when after the hustle and bustle of securing a hearing date in the Supreme Court, the state failed to show up forcing to the Supreme Court to grant an adjournment. The hearing could not be started because the government was not represented in court, counsel for the appellants conceded to the adjournment which could well be heard in the new year (2014) since all of the dates for this year have been committed to other cases. This however doesn’t deter the spirit of the maternal rights movement and very soon the Supreme Court will make a ruling and the government will be obliged to provide for the rights of the mothers.