Even before they stand trial, 22 people who are charged with murdering former deputy inspector general of police, Andrew Felix Kaweesi, yesterday won round one in the High court.
Judge Margaret Oguli-Oumo, the deputy head of the court’s civil division, ordered government to pay Shs 1.7 billion to the suspects having found that they were tortured and treated in a cruel and inhumane manner by security agents during and after their arrests.
The abuse at the hands of state agents contravened Article 24 of the constitution, which stipulates, “No person shall be subjected to any form of torture or cruel, inhumane or degrading treatment or punishment.”
The judge ordered that Asuman Mugoya, Ali Mugoya alias Byantuuyo, Shafik Kasujja, Sinaan Hibwangi alias Ndikusooka, Abdullah Kaala alias Tiger, Swale Kimuli, Sauda Ayub, Kimuli Luutu, Ibrahim Ssemwanga, Abdu Rashid Mbazira, Buyondo Mohammed, Higenyi Aramazan Noor Din, Mugerwa Yusuf aka Wilson, Bruhan Balyejusa, Maganda Umar Aramathan, Ahamada Senfuka Shaban, Hassan Tumusiime, Ibrahim Kiisa, Osman Mohammed Omarete, Hamidu Magambo, Abdu Majid Ojerere, Kyambadde Joshua Magezi and Musa Ntende Abubaker should each be paid Shs 80 million from the national coffers.
The suspects through Ladislaus Rwakafuuzi, a human rights lawyer, contended that in the aftermath of Kaweesi’s murder in March, they were arrested from their homes and unlawfully detained in military custody.
They were then transferred to the dreaded Nalufenya police station in Jinja district which is notorious for torture. They said they were subjected to systematic beatings, head bangings, electrocution, water boarding and wrapped in plastic bags.
To verify the allegations of torture, in August, Oguli-Oumo directed that the suspects be examined by independent doctors from African Centre for the Treatment and Rehabilitation of Torture Victims.
The judge rejected submissions by State Attorney George Kalemera that the suspects could be examined by doctors attached to Luzira prison. The judge said court cannot trust Luzira doctors since they work for the government, whose workers are accused of torturing the suspects.
“The only way to find the truth on the allegations of torture is to subject you to medical examination. Court got a chance to see you when you were brought to court. Some were using sticks to support themselves; others were limping which they did not have at the time of their arrest,” Oguli-Oumo ruled then.
The rehabilitation centre’s doctors examined only 19 of the 22 suspects after Luzira prison authorities refused them access to three individuals. The prison even wrote to the court indicating that they won’t comply. To Oguli-Oumo, this refusal to allow independent medical examination was telling.
“If they didn’t torture them,” Justice Oguli-Oumo argued, “why did they refuse to allow the doctors to see them?”
Though Kalemera pointed out that the doctors’ reports contradicted some of the claims in affidavits sworn by the suspects, the judge said any contradictions did not go to the root of the case.
She also said contradictions were possible since the examinations were carried out under close supervision by the military, an environment she said couldn’t allow the suspects to express themselves freely.
Judge Oumo-Oguli also found that the arrests were illegal since they were carried out by security agencies not authorised to apprehend suspects. She agreed with Rwakafuuzi that the arrests contravened articles 23(2) and (3) of the constitution.
The sections stipulate that “A person arrested, restricted or detained shall be kept in a place authorised by law. A person arrested, restricted or detained shall be informed immediately, in a language that the person understands, of the reasons for the arrest, restriction or detention and of his or her right to a lawyer of his or her choice.”
The government was found to be in contempt of court when it took the suspects to Nalufenya yet Nakawa magistrates court, where they had been charged, had ordered that they be remanded to Luzira prison.
The judge ordered government to pay costs of the case and meet the medical bills of the suspects.
A colourful officer who was also the police spokesman at the time of his death, Kaweesi was gunned down in a hail of bullets with his bodyguard and driver on March 17 this year as he left his home in Kulambiro, outside Ntinda, a city suburb. The assassins made off with his pistol and the escort’s gun.
Many suspects have since been arrested and remanded but when they later appeared in court, most of them had wounds they claimed were inflicted on them by security officers while in custody.