The High Court has awarded Twaha Mukiibi, a journalist with NBS TV Shs 40 million as damages in a suit he filed against the Attorney General of Uganda and individual police officers; Peter Austin Ocen, Ali Kakooza and Kalange Yakut whom he accused of assaulting him while on duty.
Mukiibi ran to court in March 2018, two months after he was attacked by the police at Rose Gardens in Kyengera, Wakiso district, where he had gone to interview members of a notorious criminal gang named kifeesi.
This was after two security agencies – the police and Internal Security Organisation (ISO) clashed over the handling and management of the group’s leader, Paddy Sserunjogi aka Sobi.
During the interview, policemen stormed the venue and started beating everyone at the scene.
Mukiibi was hit with a baton on the legs and immediately put up his hands pleading that he is a journalist.
He hoped this would save him, but it made matters worse as they continued beating hence causing him bodily injury.
Through Walyemera & Co. Advocates, Mukiibi, supported by Human Rights Network for Journalists-Uganda dragged the government and the police officers before Judge Musa Ssekaana of the Civil Division of the High Court.
In his ruling, Ssekaana said, “The applicant was covering a story and in the course of his employment and was clearly identifiable as a journalist of NBS. The actions of the police officers appeared to have been intended to indeed inflict pain and suffering by way of torture to restrain the applicant from executing his work as a journalist.”
The judge explained that freedom from torture is a non-derogable right under the 1995 Constitution of Uganda which was violated by the respondents. Noting that Uganda is a signatory to the African Charter on Human and Peoples’ Rights, Universal Declaration of Human Rights, International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights and the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights. He said that the prohibition against torture is a bedrock principle of international law.
“It would appear to every average man that it is irresponsible harm to inflict injury to a journalist who is carrying out his duty of informing the public when he is clearly identified as such. The applicant was identified as a journalist by the said police officers and it is expected of a government which runs its affairs including security in a manner which it should and not will-nilly interfere with the basic rights of citizens,” Ssekaana further noted.
HRNJ-Uganda’s Executive Director, Robert Ssempala described the ruling as a major stride in caging perpetrators.
Mukiibi was happy with the ruling and said this would serve as an example given the prevailing circumstances in the country.