Kampala, Uganda | THE INDEPENDENT | At least 49 jailed supporters of National Unity Platform party have sued government and its three heads of security agencies over alleged gross human rights violations occasioned to them.
The group has filed their suit in the Civil Division of High Court in Kampala through their lawyers from three law firms namely Lukwago and Company Advocates, ALP Advocates and Brian Moogi and Company Advocates.
The applicants are suing the Attorney General, the Chief of Defense Forces, Commissioner General Uganda Prisons and the Inspector General of Police.
The evidence before court shows that the applicants are members of NUP led by Robert Kyagulanyi Ssentamu and members of his campaign team that have been helping him in his presidential campaigns.
The lawyers say that their clients were arrested on December 29th, 2020 in Kalangala district by officers wearing UPDF and police uniforms without name tags and covered from head to toe with black masks and head gears to prevent their identification.
According to the court records, the applicants were later taken to Masaka police station while others were taken to Kasijjagirwa military barracks respectively. Here, they were reportedly detained incommunicado before being produced at Masaka Chief Magistrates court on charges of inciting violence.
Evidence further indicates that while in Masaka court, the applicants allegedly had signs of torture through beatings and they were given bail based on the strength of the witnesses.
But on the way to the bank, their sureties were reportedly beaten and chased away by police and military before they could sign the bail forms hence frustrating the exercise which was later finalized the next day.
Their lawyers state further that the Uganda Prisons handed the applicants to a joint task force of police and military from Masaka prison where they were held and transferred to Makindye military barracks yet they had been required at Masaka Chief Magistrates court.
While at the General Court Martial in Makindye, the 49 individuals were charged for being in illegal possession of four bullets of an AK 47. They were accordingly remanded to Kigo and Kitalya government’s prison.
But while in the military court, their lawyers Medard Lubega Sseggona, Chrisostom Katumba, Jonathan Elotu and Benjamin Katana together with the relatives of the applicants and journalists were denied access to the General Court Martial.
Now the lawyers argue that the concurrent trial before two courts is unlawful and the said detentions, torture, arraignment and trial and subsequent handing over the applicants to the officers of the army by prisons is illegal as it contravenes the principles of separation of powers.
“The military have/had no right nor power to detain the applicants whether in the barracks or anywhere else. The applicants have been subjected to horrendous inconveniences, mental anguish and emotional stress for which the government and her heads of security should be held liable”, reads the application in part.
The lawyers now want the High Court to order for their immediate, unconditional release and declare that the process leading to their detention was irregular and unlawful. This is because it was allegedly marred by gross human rights violations specifically the right of fair hearing, and freedom from torture, inhuman and degrading treatment.
The applicants who were charged after spending more than the mandatory 48 hours in custody also want the DPP to investigate and prosecute officers of the respondents involved in the violations of the rights complained about and order for their immediate unconditional release.
They are also seeking for compensation for general and exemplary damages for the said violations and a permanent injunction restraining the army from further trial of the applicants in relation to the said charges.
Court is yet to summon the respondents to file their defense before the matter is fixed for hearing.