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Bobi Wine Arua torture victims demand compensation

JUSTICE | The High Court in Arua on Monday (today) starts hearing an application for legal redress and compensation by three of the ‘Arua 33’ torture victims.

Jane Abola, Night Asara Eyoru and Shaban Atiku have sued the Attorney General and former Regional police Commander for West Nile, Jonathan Musinguzi, over “violation of their freedom from torture, cruel, inhumane and degrading treatment.”

“The threats to shoot, the beatings, kicks and stabbings by police and military commanded by Musinguzi on August 13, 2018, was a violation of the applicants’ constitutional guarantees from torture, cruel, inhumane and degrading treatment as enshrined in Article 24 of the Constitution,” reads part of  the affidavit drafted by human rights lawyer Ladslaus Rwakafuzi.

Sendo Cleaners

On August 13 last year, the trio and 30 others from Arua District nearly paid with their lives when supporters of Kyaddondo East MP Robert Kyagulanyi, aka Bobi Wine, then calling themselves “Red Army” clashed with members of President Museveni’s security detail on Ediofe Road in Arua District during the climax of Arua Municipality by-election campaigns.

Bobi Wine was in the West Nile district to campaign for Kassiano Wadri, an independent candidate and eventual winner of the hotly contested race.

The clash had resulted in the shooting to death of Yassin Kawuma, Bobi Wine’s driver, and brutal arrest of the legislator and his colleagues, including Mityana Municipality MP Francis Zaake. Zaake was tortured and discovered unconscious in a Kampala hospital after allegedly “escaping from police custody” while Bobi Wine spent two weeks in the dungeons at Makindye Military Barracks.

Abola, Asara and Atiku were among the supporters angry Special Forces Command soldiers rounded up in the district and detained in Gulu from where they were charged with various offences, including treason, before the charges were revised.

When the 33 suspects were produced at Gulu chief magistrates court on August 16, many like Atiku and Abola could not walk or stand without support.

“Aseru was even bleeding from her private parts from the beatings and kicks she took in,” lawyers representing the suspects told journalists at the time.

The magistrate ordered they be taken for medical treatment at their own cost.

Torture

In their application that was filed before the High Court in October last year, the trio say police released poisonous fumes in their detention cells to choke them and that the offence of treason that they were charged with violated their constitution rights to fair hearing and equal protection of the law.

They also want court to declare Musinguzi unfit as the co-accused not fit to hold a public office.

Musinguzi was in February among the four senior police officers found guilty of charges of neglect of duty (failure to protect the president) during the Arua fracas and demoted to lower ranks.

“The court should order the accused to pay punitive and compensatory damages to the applicants, take Abola abroad for specialised treatment and pay the costs of the suit,” the affidavit reads in part.

Coming up before Justice Anthony Ojok, Rwakafuzi says that a group comprising police and military officers attacked patrons of Royal Hotel in Arua, including the trio, and “shot, stabbed, kicked and tortured them.

“The police and military acts were unprovoked, arbitrary, unlawful and a violation of constitutional guarantees,” the application says.

The court sitting will also hear another application in which one of Kawuma’s widow is demanding an inquest into his murder during the Arua fracas.

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