Years after the Director of Public Prosecutions dropped charges of torture against then Inspector General of Police Edward Kale Kayihura, lawyer Robert Rutaro has lodged a notice of appeal aimed at clearing his name.
Rutaro has formally lodged a notice of appeal with the Constitutional Court, challenging its recent decision to uphold a torture charge presented then against former Inspector General of Police Edward Kale Kayihura and seven other senior police officers in the dropped 2016 case.
Among the accused are Andrew Kaggwa, James Ruhweza, Samuel Bamuziibire, Patrick Muhumuza, Wesley Nganizi, Geoffrey Kaheebwa, and Moses Nanoka.
Collectively, they were charged alongside Kayihura for their alleged involvement in acts of torture against Joseph Kaddu, Andrew Ssebitosi, Rogers Ddiba, Boda Boda riders, and the supporters of Dr. Kizza Besigye in 2016. The Makindye Chief Magistrates Court issued criminal summons against the suspects in July 2016 to formally plead to the charges.
Dissatisfied with the decision, Rutaro petitioned the Constitutional Court questioning the legality of prosecuting senior police officers on vague torture charges, arguing that this approach infringed upon their right to a fair hearing and contradicted constitutional principles. He also contended that the multiple charges brought against the officers based on the same set of facts amounted to double jeopardy, a violation of their constitutional rights.
Last week, the panel of five Justices of the Constitutional Court led by Fredrick Egonda Ntende dismissed Rutaro’s petition, asserting that although the case was was eventually dropped by the IGG, the charges were appropriately instituted against the accused officers. The court underscored the principle that criminal liability is an individual responsibility, maintaining that police officers must be held accountable for their actions, even in cases involving allegations of torture.
“Furthermore, there is no constitutional immunity granted to such officers. The Prevention and Prohibition of Torture Act puts in place provisions to implement a constitutional order against torture, cruel inhuman, and degrading treatment. The government has no official policy in support of torture, and that torture is saved for exceptional circumstances, unnecessary for the efficient exercise of public duties, and also that torture causes immense suffering and is unconscionable,” ruled the Justices.
Represented by Elgon and Company Advocates, Rutaro has initiated the appeals process by filing the notice of appeal.
He has requested access to the certified copy of the decision to formulate his grounds for appeal, with the intention of presenting his case before the Supreme Court. Rutaro’s legal team is also preparing to request an extension for the appeal’s filing deadline, citing insufficient prior notification of the court’s decision. The law says an appeal has to be filed within 14 days.
The Director of Public Prosecutions’ subsequent withdrawal of the charges in 2016 was preceded by a temporary injunction issued by then Chief Justice Steven Kavuma, effectively suspending the trial proceedings pending the Constitutional Court’s final determination.