Court orders: Arbitrary arrest and torture of a suspect as unlawful

The High Court on the 19th of August 2019 in Izza Wazembe v Attorney General Civil Suit No. 154 of 2016 before Hon. Justice Musa Ssekaana ruled in favour of the plaintiff (Izza Wazembe) against the government for violation of Constitutional rights by the military.

Mr. Izza wazembe filed this suit seeking declarations that his constitutional rights under Article 20(1), (2), Article 24 and Article 26(1) (2) which were violated and an order for punitive and general damages for the violations. Izza Wazembe alleged that he was arrested by the military from a bus while returning to Mbale after shopping in Kampala. He was not informed of the reasons of his arrest, nor did they allow him to inform his relatives. He stated that he was tortured by the military immediately after arrest and detained him in safe houses from November 2007 to August 2008. As a result of this case, issues of personal liberty, freedom of torture and right to property were raised for Court’s determination.

The judge in this case held and stated that, the preservation of personal liberty is so crucial in the Constitution that any derogation from it, where it has to be done as a matter of unavoidable necessity, the Constitution ensures that such derogation is just temporary and not indefinite. The Constitution has a mechanism that enables the enjoyment of the right that has been temporarily interrupted to be reclaimed through the right to the order of habeas corpus which is inviolable and cannot be suspended. The person arrested and detained has a right to know the reasons for detention right away at the time of arrest. The person effecting arrest must explain the reasons in clear and simple language. This information helps the person being arrested or detained to know and assess how serious the situation is. They can then make an informed decision about their other rights.

On freedom from torture, court held and stated that one of the most universally recognized human rights. Torture is considered so barbaric and incompatible with civilized society that it cannot be tolerated. Torturers are seen as the ‘enemy of mankind’. The ban on torture is found in a number of international treaties, including Article 2 of the United Nations Convention Against Torture and Article 3 of the Human Rights Convention and Article 5 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and Article 5 of the African Charter on Human and People’s Rights.