The High Court in Kampala has ordered the government to compensate Mityana Municipality Member of Parliament Francis Zaake with 75 million Shillings for the torture inflicted on him while in state custody.
The order issued by Justice Esta Nambayo arises from a case in which Zaake sued the Attorney General together with eight police officers after being detained at various detention facilities, where the officers allegedly tortured him affecting his eyesight and right leg.
He was arrested from Mityana district on grounds that he was involved in activities that were likely to spread COVID-19 in the community. Before his arrest, Zaake had been distributing food to communities in Mityana Municipality, that were affected by the first COVID-19 lockdown, which started in March 2020.
He was held without trial for ten days at Mityana Police Station, the Chieftaincy of Military Intelligence Headquarters in Mbuya, Special Investigations Unit in Kireka, before being transferred to the Japan-Uganda Friendship Hospital in Naguru and later to Kiruddu Hospital in Makindye. He was released on April, 29t, 2020 on police bond.
But earlier, on April 27, 2020, the Nakawa Chief Magistrates Court had issued an order for Zaake’s unconditional release. He then was presented before the Magistrates Court in Mityana, where, however, he declined to take a plea. The court then ordered that he should be taken to the hospital for treatment because of the multiple injuries, that were visible on his body.
Zaake, through his lawyers led by Eron Kiiza then petitioned the High Court seeking to be compensated for the human rights violations that he endured during the time of his arrest and detention.
The specifically sued Wamala Regional Police Commander Bob Kagarura, Mityana District Police Commander Alex Mwiine, Elly Womanya, the former commandant of the police’s Special Investigation Unit, Musa Walugembe, the officer in charge of the Special Investigations Unit, Abel Kandiho, the commander of the Chieftaincy of Military Intelligence, Hamdan Twesigye and Haruna Mulungi Nsamba.
The government had asked the court to dismiss the case on grounds that Zaake was arrested for flouting COVID-19 guidelines and was neither tortured nor taken to any military detention. However, Justice Nambayo has ruled that she reviewed the medical reports and video clips tendered before the court and concluded that the injuries were inflicted on him while in police custody.
The judge also relied on a report submitted before parliament by the then Minister of Internal Affairs Jeje Odongo and another from the African Centre for Treatment and Rehabilitation of Torture Victims which showed that Zaake had injuries and symptoms consistent with torture and ill-treatment.
“The video clip showing the arrest… and another showing the Applicant hospitalized, show that at the time of his arrest, he had sound sight and was not in pain as compared to the time of hospitalization when he had closed his eyes in pain, with injuries all over his body. The above evidence leaves me with no other option but to arrive at a conclusion that the injuries… were sustained while in Police custody,” Nambayo said”
Although Zaake wanted the court to find the said police officers liable for the torture, the Judge has ruled that there was no evidence to show that the named officers individually participated in the acts. But she added that the pain and injury on Zaake during his detention infringed on his fundamental human rights to dignity and freedom from torture, cruel, inhumane or degrading treatment or punishment protected under the constitution, and for this, she awarded him a compensation package of 75 million Shillings.
Lawyer Eron Kiiza welcomed the decision and argues that it is good in terms of enforcing human rights.