How two URA employees won UGX.400m in damages over torture

The Commissioner General of the Uganda Revenue Authority (URA), John Rujoki Musinguzi, at a recent press conference

The Commissioner General of the Uganda Revenue Authority (URA), John Rujoki Musinguzi, at a recent press conference

Court has ordered the government to pay more than Shs400 million to two Uganda Revenue Authority (URA) employees as compensation for torture.

Justice Lawrence Gidudu of the Anticorruption High Court ruled that Robert Asiimwe Akanga and Kalemba Stevens were subjected to acts of torture and that their non-derogable rights were threatened, infringed and grossly violated.

The court ordered the government to pay Shs2OO million as compensation for general damages and Shs5O million as payment for punitive damages to Mr Akanga, a customs officer at URA.

The court ordered for payment of Shs1OO million as general damages and Shs5O million as punitive damages to Mr Kalemba, a driver.

The court order was issued against the Attorney General (AG) and the Uganda Revenue Authority (URA) for subjecting the two men to humiliation and embarrassment and also to pay legal costs incurred by the applicants.

“The brutality meted out to the applicants (Akamba and Kalemba) call for adequate compensation for not just their pain and prolonged suffering but also the impact on their lives after. The public humiliation and embarrassment also calls for a higher value of compensation,” the judge observed.

Justice Gidudu also declared null and void the case and acquitted the two men reasoning that their rights and freedoms were infringed upon when they were mercilessly battered in the hands of the military that should have no role in purporting to investigate a criminal case of abuse of office and theft.

Court records show that in February 2021, the two men while employed as customs officers and driver respectively were arrested on allegations of stealing $410,000 the property of GAK Express Company Limited which they denied.

Prosecution states that on February 28, 2021, Akamba and Kalemba being employed by URA as a customs officer and driver respectively stole $41O,OOO the property of GAK Express Company Limited.

However, through their lawyers, the two men told court that they were arrested and tortured by the Joint Anti-Terrorism Taskforce and the military.

“Torture was administered by beating, boxing, kicking using metals, wires, kicked in the ribs with combat boots, burning him with hot metals under his feet, chaining his hands and arms behind his back, dragging him on the floor while pulling the ropes tied in the neck and arms, hitting his toes, ankles and elbows and suspending him in air while tying his neck, legs and arms,” reads the court record.

Court heard that the torture was executed by ten well-muscled men using weapons such as guns, sticks, batons, metal bars, pliers, chains, ropes and electric wires.

The judge questioned the circumstances surrounding the arrest and charging in court of the two men.

Justice Gidudu questioned why the two men were arrested by use of trickery as if they were on the run and what lured the midnight arrest of Kelemba and Akamba by UPDF senior officers.

“The nature of the complaint is another piece of curiosity. Who was the complainant? Is it the unnamed South Sudanese National or a private company? AIP Kisa does not mention in her affidavit who reported the case to Kawempe Police and why the Police assigned URA to prosecute individuals who are not tax defaulters,” he observed.

Justice Gidudu held that the charges of abuse of office, theft, receiving stolen property and conspiracy to commit a felony do not fall under the East African Community Customs Management Act, 2OO4.

“Even if A1 (Akamba) and A2 (Kalemba) are employees of URA, did they steal from URA or indeed commit a crime under tax laws? What is the grievance of URA in this case? The long detention of over two weeks and the use of URA officials and soldiers as part of the investigation of non-tax offences is out of the ordinary,” said Justice Gidudu questioning why the two men were detained for 16 days on nonviolent charges.

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