High Court has dismissed an application by two law students from Islamic University in Uganda (IUIU) challenging the excessive use of force and lethal weapons by security agencies to disperse assemblies.
The High Court Civil Division Judge, Musa Ssekaana dismissed the application filed by Derrick Okello Wamboga and Joel Jerry Walyono when the matter came up for hearing on Tuesday.
He argued that since the petition was meant to enforce rights under public interest, the applicants should have petitioned the Constitutional Court.
“The Judicature Fundamental and other Human Rights and Freedoms Enforcement Procedures, 2019 provide that any matter brought for the enforcement of rights in the public interest must be filed in the Constitutional Court”, said Ssekaana.
He consequently dismissed the case, saying that it was filed before the wrong court. He, however, didn’t make any orders on the costs.
Wamboga and Walyono, who were representing themselves asked the court to refer the matter to the Constitutional Court or give them time to deliberate on the matter.
The Attorney General was not represented in Court.
Wamboga and Walyono ran to the High Court following the November 18 and 19 2020 riots triggered by the arrest of the then National Unity Platform (NUP) Presidential Candidate, Robert Kyagulanyi Ssentamu which led to the death of more than 50 people.
The army and police used live bullets, grenades, and teargas to quell the protests that broke out simultaneously across the country.
The petitioners indicated that more than 50 people lost their lives while dozens of others escaped with grave injuries, which was a violation of the right to life and to lawful protest.
They also noted during every electoral cycle specifically from 2006, 2011, 2016, and 2021, security agencies have continuously and unreasonably used live ammunition and teargas to disperse rallies.
They cited the breakup of the rallies of presidential candidates, Patrick Amuriat Oboi and Kyagulanyi in the name of enforcing the standard operating procedures instituted to stop the spread of COVID-19.
“That indeed such arbitrariness and use of lethal force or weapons by the security agencies to disperse allegedly unlawful assemblies is an outright violation of the right of assembly, protest, life,” reads Walyono’s affidavit.
They listed the Attorney General, Inspector General of Police, and Chief of Defense Forces as the respondents to their petition.
They asked the court to declare that the arbitrary dispersal of assemblies whether lawful or unlawful is a violation of the right to life, freedom of assembly, and right to protest enshrined in the Constitution of Uganda.
However, on August 19, 2021, the Attorney General through State Attorney Mark Muwonge asked the Court to dismiss the case for lack of merit.
“That the applicants have not attached any evidence to prove that any officer belonging to the 2nd and 3rd respondents (IGP and CDF respectively) committed the alleged offences while in the course of their employment.
There is no force of number or name of any officer alleged to have committed any of the alleged offences,” reads Muwonge’s affidavit.
Speaking to URN after the court decision, the petitioners said that they still contemplating their next course of action.
Months after the riots in question President, Yoweri Kaguta Museveni said that 32 of those killed were rioters, according to the report compiled by investigators.
He said some of the victims were hit by stray bullets while others were knocked by cars. He revealed that the government would compensate the families of the innocent victims. But more than a year later, the families are yet to get the compensation.