By Sakur AbdulSalam
The High Court has awarded Shs1.8b to 22 suspects accused of killing former Assistant Inspector General of Police (AIGP) Andrew Felix Kaweesi over torture.
On Thursday, the deputy head of the Civil Division of the High Court, Justice Margret Oguli-Oumo ruled that the suspects proved beyond reasonable doubt that they were tortured in both military and police custody upon arrest.
“Having perused through both the applicants and the Attorney General’s submissions, I am in no doubt that the applicants were tortured in the hands of military and police. Therefore, the AG is responsible for the torture inflicted on each of them,” Oguli ruled.
The Attorney General (AG) is the legal representative of the Government.
Oguli said their torture was a violation of their constitutional guarantee to freedom from torture, cruel, inhuman and degrading treatment under Article 24 of the constitution.
She therefore awarded each of them Shs.80m in compensation at an interest rate of 20% until full payment. Each suspect wanted Shs.100m.
These are Abdu-Rashid Mbaziira, Aramanzan Noordin Higenyi, Yusuf Mugerwa, Bruhan Balyejjusa, Umar Baganda, Ahamada Senfuka, Hassan Tusiime, Ibrahim Kissa, Osman Mohamed Omarite, Hamidu Magambo.
Others are Abdu Majid, Joshua Kyambadde, Sheikh Musa Ntende, Shafique Kasujja, Abdala Kaala, Sinani Hibwagi, Ali Mugoya, Asuman Mugoya, Swalleh Ddamulira, Sauda Ayub, Yusuf Nyanzi and Jibril Kalyango.
However, Oguli declined to release them on grounds that they are still battling murder charges before a competent court of law.
Recently, the accused asked court to compel the government to treat them of all the medical ailments resulting from torture, compensate them and be unconditionally released.
They alleged that they were forcefully arrested, pepper sprayed in the eyes and ears, beaten with gun butts, flogged with their heads upside down, put on electric shock, blind folded, kept on chains, cut with machetes, their fingers were tied with rubber springs and sharp objects placed between them.
They also claimed that upon arrest, the military and police took away their property which includes motorcycles and cash without exhibiting them.
They were represented by human rights lawyer Ladislaus Rwakafuuzi while principal state attorney Philip Mwaka for AG.
The court found that all the 22 applicants were forcefully arrested without informing them the reason of their arrest, detained in un-gazatted military custody for over 60 days and tortured before charged in court which violated their freedom from torture.
On April 21, they were produced before Nakawa Chief Magistrate’s Court limping over allegations of torture and charged with Kaweesi murder. However, Police Spokesperson, Asan Kasingye said they had wounds before arrest.
Kaweesi was murdered together with his body guard Kenneth Erau and driver Geoffrey Mambewo on the morning of March 17, 2017, meters away from his home in Kulambiro, Nakawa division.
The judge also directed doctors at Luzira prisons to treat the suspects under the supervision of the doctors from African Centre for Treatment and Rehabilitation of Torture Victims (ACTV), who will furnish a monthly report in court about their health condition.
“These are mere suspects who are still innocent until proven guilty and should be treated by the medical doctors at Luzira prisons,” she noted.
Oguli also blamed the prison authorities for defying her directive to allow doctors from ACTV to examine Sauda, Nyanzi and Kalyango, who were co-applicants in the suit.
“I am inclined to believe that if the prison authority did not have something to hide, they should have allowed the doctors from ACTV who were directed by this court to carry out medical examination on the three co-applicants to do their work,” she noted.
She faulted the AG over failure to avail in court police form 24 where suspected capital offenders like them are examined which court could have based on to believe their defense.
“Detective superintendent of Police Johnson Ola’s evidence cannot be relied upon by this court because he is just an investigating officer but not the one who arrested them,” she ruled.
Oguli noted that no person deserves to be tortured because of investigations or obtaining information or confession from him/her for offence committed because it violates the right to freedom from torture.
“The Anti-torture law was enacted because of the recent history of torture in the country and courts of law cannot allow it to be violated,” she noted.
She declared their remand in police custody after being charged in court unlawful.
Oguli also cautioned security authorities against torturing suspects, saying it is unlawful.
Although court awarded the accused compensation, most of them remained silent with few smiling.
In a letter dated June 13, Inspector General of Police (IGP) Okoth Ochola said actions of police officers that would lead court to give awards or order for compensation to victim’s, payment shall be made by the police force as an institution but not the AG.