Kampala, Uganda | THE INDEPENDENT | Two Uganda Revenue Authority employees have been awarded 400 million Shillings as compensation for the torture they were subjected to while in detention.
The two employees; Robert Asiimwe Akanga, a Customs Officer and driver Stevens Kalenga were separately arrested on allegations of stealing USD 410,000 (1.5 billion Shillings) from GAK Express Company Limited on February 28, 2021. They denied the charges.
Asiimwe informed the court that he had been assigned by Paul Karatunga, the in-Charge of the operations Team at URA to lead an operation along Entebbe road on March 3, 2021. On the said day, he met Katatunga at Total-Kajjansi, in the company of two soldiers; Captain Charles Isingoma and Captain Winnie Kusiima and two unidentified escorts.
There was no operation thereafter. Instead, Asiimwe was arrested and taken to the URA offices where he was informed that he was wanted in connection to the theft of money belonging to a Sudan national. Although a subsequent search at his home did not yield any results, he was reportedly advised by Col. Cassette Ignatius Wamundu to confess to the theft to save his life.
Asiimwe explained that on March 6, 2O21, he was blindfolded by a team from the Chieftaincy of Military Intelligence-CMI, and taken to Mbuya from where he was subjected to torture for three weeks. He says that he was beaten, kicked, boxed and burnt with hot metals, chained and dragged on the floor. Sometimes, a rope would be tied around his neck and arms and threatened with hanging.
Court records show that Asiimwe lost consciousness due to prolonged torture and regained his senses to realize he was in a corridor bleeding profusely and still chained. His ribs, toes, ankles and elbows were badly injured and unable to support him. His entire body was swollen, wounded and paralysed, according to his statement.
His colleague Kalenga said he received the phone call from a fellow driver and was arrested similarly in the presence of his wife and children. To his surprise, a polyethene bag containing money was placed before him and thereafter pictures were taken to show that he was found in possession of stolen items.
The two were later taken to the Special Investigations Unit in Kireka and subsequently paraded before the anti-corruption court to face trial on charges of abuse of office and theft. But they instead asked the Court to declare their trial a nullity, and offer them compensation for the torture they were subjected to at the hands of the Chieftaincy of Military Intelligence.
However, the respondents asked the court to dismiss the case on the basis that the allegations were baseless. They disputed the torture claims and argued that there was no medical proof of injuries sustained and doubted if the applicants were ever tortured.
But Justice Lawrence Gidudu relied on the case of lawyer Paul Wanyoto Mugoya and another where it was held that torture by its nature is carried out in secrecy while the victim is not able to assemble medical evidence. He said the submission that there was no medical evidence to support the claim of torture is not sustainable in law.
Justice Gidudu also expressed surprise by the tricks used to arrest the two as if they had been on run. He also questioned the deployment of senior UPDF officers to arrest suspects and charging them with offences that do not fall under the URA-related laws.
“I am satisfied that the applicants have demonstrated that their non-derogable rights and freedoms were infringed upon when they were mercilessly battered in the hands of the military that should have had no role in purporting to investigate a criminal case of Abuse of office and theft,”, said Gidudu.
Asiimwe was as a result awarded 200 million Shillings in general damages and 50 million Shillings as punitive damages while Kalenga was awarded 150 million Shillings in Total.