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Uganda: Police officer on trial for "inhumane and degrading" arrest of journalist

The trial of a senior Uganda Police officer, the Divisional Commander of Wandegeya police station, Julius Ceaser Tusingwire, has commenced at the High Court in Kampala. The victim, Mulindwa Mukasa a journalist with the Associated Press news agency, asked the court to disqualify Tusingwire's two lawyers, Fred Masaba and Odjambo Bichachi, because they work for the Attorney General's office.

Through his lawyer (Isaac Semakadde Kimaze of Centre for Legal Aid), Mulindwa told the court – presided over by Lady Justice Lydia Mugambe, sitting at Twed Towers in Kampala – that according to Articles 119 and 250(2) of the Constitution of the Republic of Uganda, it would be an abuse of office for the Attorney General to represent Tusingwire, who was sued in his personal and individual capacity.

Mulindwa alleges that on 26 November 2013, Tusingwire ordered his arrest which was carried out in an inhumane and degrading way. He alleges that he was tortured and sprayed with pepper while in custody at Wandegeya police station. Tusingwire also ordered for the deletion of Mulindwa's footage which he had taken during the police's forceful dispersal of journalists from Wandegeya police station.

The court adjourned the matter to 23 September.

In a related development, the Uganda Human Rights Commission has ordered the Attorney General to appear before the Tribunal on 22 September, in a matter where Hasfa Nakyanzi, a journalist working with WBS TV accuses the Uganda Police Force of occasioning her grievous bodily harm and loss of her journalistic tools as she covered a peaceful demonstration by Opposition Political leaders in Jinja town on 11 March 2011. The Tribunal presided over by Commissioner Katabalirwe Amooti made the order after the Attorney General failed to appear.

Present at the Tribunal were Ambassador Olara Otunnu, and the complainant who were ready to testify. The complainant is represented by Catherine Anite, while Kosia Kasibayo held brief for the Attorney General.

“HRNJ-Uganda is elated with the commencement of the trials and pray that they will be expedited in the interest of justice for the victim journalists and the media at large.” said Robert Ssempala, the HRNJ-Uganda National Coordinator.

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