In two separate judgments delivered this month, judges made it clear that the old order of human rights abuses in the police force will no longer go unpunished.
The judgments spotlighted one theme: errant officers will now be required to personally incur the cost of compensation in the event of an award by court.
In the past public officers, more-so, security officers tortured citizens and abused their rights with impunity, knowing that when push came to shove it would be the taxpayers to pay for their sins. Not anymore.
Now the Human Rights (Enforcement Act 2019) is beginning to bite police officers where it hurts most - their personal purse. Strangely, the Inspector General of Police, Martins Okoth Ochola who in 2019 warned his officers against transgressing the law on human rights, has been asked to pay for court costs after the judge ruled that he illegally stopped Bobi Wine’s Kyarenga concert.
In the case, Abbey Musinguzi T/A Abtex productions and Bajo Events and Marketing Agency Ltd v. The Inspector General of Police and Attorney General, Justice Esta Nambayo has found that the decision making process and the decision itself of the Inspector General of Police taken on April 19, 2019, indefinitely stopping the event managers from organizing the ‘Kyarenga Extra Concerts’ at One Love Beach Busabaala, Lira, Gulu and Arua was illegal, ultra vires, irrational, unreasonable and an abuse of the police’s powers.
And for that reason, the judge has ordered the Inspector General of Police to pay the cost of application. In July 2019 when the human rights law was enacted, Ochola wrote to all police units and warned them about the strict repercussions of violating human rights.
“Be informed that a new law, The Human Rights (Enforcement Act 2019) is now in place. Going forward, the entrenchment of human rights in police work will never be an option...” Ochola wrote.
“The common human rights violations by police that have been documented over the years include, but not limited to, detention of suspects beyond 48 hours, torture, denial of a right to a fair hearing ...” Ochola illustrated.
“Important to note is that responsible officers will now be required to personally incur the cost of compensation in the event of an award by court...” the circular explained.
In the recent human rights violation case, Right Trumpets, Ampiire Aisha and Nansubuga v. AIGP Asan Kasingye and 13 others, the judge Margaret Mutonyi has held several police officers personally liable for torturing and violating the rights of inmates under police custody at Nagalama police station.
The complainants were arrested on September 18, 2017, while peacefully demonstrating against the lifting of the presidential age limit. They were detained at Naggalama police station beyond 48 hours without access to their lawyer or relatives. In the same case, twelve children with their three mothers were arrested and detained separately at Naggalama and Kireka Special investigations unit for 51 days and six days respectively.
Ampiire Aisha and her co-wife Bint Salim were arrested on suspicion that their husband, Rashid Mbazira was involved in the murder of former Assistant Inspector General of Police, Andrew Felix Kaweesi.
At Kireka they were blindfolded, beaten, threatened with death, almost raped and made to sleep on the floor. They were poked and shoved by police officers. All that torment was done to compel them to confess that their husband killed Kaweesi.
These mothers with suckling babies were separated from their children for six days. When they were released they found their children missing and on inquiry from Naggalama police station, they were rudely told to forget their children. The policemen told them to go get other men and produce other children since their children had been taken by white men. The children were aged between 1-13 years.
And for that offence the judge has ordered Detective Constable (D/C) Sarah Nankwanga to pay Ampiire Aisha and Nansubuga Saidat Shs 5,000,000 each for the tortuous act of blind folding them during interrogation and inflicting mental and psychological torture.
Further, on Nankwanga, the court ruled that, she is not a fit and proper person to work as a police detective because she is immorally inconsiderate and afflicted a lot of physical, mental and psychological torture on Ampiire.
The judge has also ordered the officer in charge of Naggalama police station, Brian Nyehangane to pay Shs 1,000,000 each to Ampiire and Nansubuga for the tortuous act of concealing the whereabouts of their children.
The same officer has been ordered to pay Shs 1,000,000 to each of the two ladies for detaining them beyond the 48 hours without justification.
They were detained for 192 hours. The officer also denied the arrested persons their right to be released on bond or be produced in court within 48 hours. The police officer explained to court that he could not release the suspects because he was still waiting for clearance from his senior officers (orders from above).
But the judge countered this. The judge said: “any officer who violates the rights of citizens on orders from above or under the pretext that he or she was waiting for orders from above does so at his own peril.”