By Patience Kirabo
Apparently it is possible for Ugandan Courts to rule in favor of paying damages to Ugandan torture victims; but when it comes to Rwandan victims Kampala and it’s institutions care much less. The countless, innocent Rwandan victims of torture sit wondering if justice will ever come their way.
While lawyers representing the Rwandans have instituted legal proceedings for redress for torture, illegal detention, human rights violations, and loss of property, no Ugandan authority has listened to their demands, nor of their attorneys.
In the case of Ugandan victims of torture by Kampala security organs, late last week the High court in the Ugandan capital awarded Ushs 250 million to Simon Peter Odong, an ISO operative. Odongo was arrested by members of the Ugandan army, UPDF, and the police on May 05 this year. While in detention, Odongo was reportedly tortured and denied access to family visits and doctors.
That is the same fate that hundreds of Rwandan nationals have suffered at the hands of Ugandan security agencies since 2017.
According to court, Odongo suffered an infringement of his fundamental rights of freedom from torture, and his right to liberty was infringed. As a result the Court ordered that Odongo be awarded Ushs 200 million for the violations and sufferings during detention, and an additional Ushs 50 million for damages for contempt of court. “It’s hereby ordered that the subject of the application Simon Peter Odongo has suffered an infringement of his fundamental rights of freedom from torture. His right to liberty was infringed,” the Court remarked.
Contrarily, Uganda’s Chieftaincy of Military Intelligence, CMI, as well as Internal Security Organization, ISO, police, and even UPDF have consistently and arbitrarily arrested, unlawfully detained (incommunicado and in unknown locations) hundreds of Rwandan nationals. “And leave alone the statutory 48 hours Ugandan law gives to produce a detainee and charge him or her in court failure of which they are to be freed, Rwandans have been detained months and years,” said Eron Kiiza, a Kampala lawyer that represents hundreds of Rwandans whose rights Ugandan security agencies have abused.
No Ugandan court has ever awarded a single Rwandan victim despite tireless efforts by the lawyers representing the innocent Rwandan victims.
The lawyers – Kiiza and associates like Gawaya Tegulle and Anthony Odur – have repeatedly stressed: “in no case did prosecutors representing Uganda prove any of their accusations against arbitrarily arrested Rwandans or mount a credible case against them in court.”
Uganda’s security agencies have been in clear violation of Uganda’s constitutional protections with their incessant abductions of Rwandan citizens in Uganda, incarcerating them in torture dungeons such as CMI’s headquarters in Mbuya, or in ungazetted detention centers, the so-called “safe houses”, known mainly as places of torture. Those lucky to survive these places have been dumped at the border with Rwanda. A good number have lost their lives.
As if arbitrary arrests, illegal detention, and torture were not enough, the security organs and their agents denied victims access to medical help, family or consular visits. “It is high time Uganda seriously began thinking of compensating Rwandan torture victims, as this is only one of the ways to restore normal ties between Uganda and Rwanda,” said a relative of one of the victims in Kigali.