KAMPALA — Mityana Municipality Member of Parliament Francis Zaake has been awarded compensation after the High Court found that he had been gravely tortured by Police and the military.
The High Court on Monday, August 2021 awarded Mr. Zaake to the tune of UGX. 75 million in damages and ordered the government to compensate him as soon as possible.
The Monday order issued by Justice Esta Nambayo arises from a case in which Mr. Zaake sued the Attorney General together with eight police officers after being detained at various detention facilities, where the officers 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, 29th, 2020 on police bond.
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 UGX. 75 million.
MP Zaake who is on official duties in Turkey welcomed the decision.
“I am delighted to inform you comrades that I have WON the case I filed in the High Court against criminal police officers who tortured me in April last year for donating food to my neighbours during the first lockdown,” he wrote on Facebook.
“I am particularly happy that like the proverbial dead clock that is at least correct twice a day, the Judiciary has delivered justice at a time when so many other victims of even worse state wrongs are routinely denied redress for fear of upsetting the dictator and his enablers.
“We must keep up our struggle against misrule until such a time when getting justice from the judicial system is a certainty, not just a possibility”.