The Civil Division of the High Court in Kampala has ruled that the 2016 raid on Nakasero mosque was unlawful since it didn’t follow the proper procedures.
In the wee hours of December 27,2016, without prior notice, a joint security team of operatives from police, military police ,UPDF and the Joint Anti-Terrorism Task Force raided Nakasero Mosque belonging to the Juma-Iyyat Daawat Ssalafiyyah Muslim community during investigations in the gruesome shooting of Maj. Muhammad Kiggundu.
Three Muslim faithful including Siraje Nsambu Kifampa, Habib Buwembo and Musa Musuda Yusuf dragged government to court over the raid.
On Monday, Justice Musa Ssekaana ruled that whereas security was right carryout a search to assist the law enforcement officials to investigate violations of the law by unearthing evidence for the suspected commission of breaches of the law, they ought to have done it through the right channels.
“The respondents never attached any documents required under the Police Act that would determine the lawfulness of the search conducted. A plain statement even if made under oath could not be a substituted for the required documents or record in writing containing the grounds of belief, the thing for which search is to be made,” Justice Ssekaana said in his ruling.
“The police in this case carried out the search without recording reasons envisaged under the Police Act, the search was therefore illegal.”
The judge explained that in this case, security ought to have sought for written document authorizing the search from the magistrate’s court before proceeding with the search.
He added that at least the officers should have displayed a search warrant or warrant cards issued by the Inspector General of Police to justify the lawfulness of their search but noted this was not done.
“The respondent did not present either of these documents to prove the legality of the search that was carried out by police. In absence of any evidence to the contrary, the said search was carried out without the search warrant and warrant card. It was thus illegal and unlawful.”
Right to religious freedom
The judge also ruled that security operatives violated the right to religious freedom of the three applicants and other members of the Jamiyyat Daawa Assalafiyyah Muslim Community protected by Article 29(1)(c) and 37 of the Constitution.
He explained that a search on any place of worship must be conducted in such a manner that would not desecrate the sanctity of the place of worship and that there must be respect for their known practices in order not to insult that religion and its believers or faithful.
“The respondent’s security operatives/police officers according to the applicants; while conducting their search had little or no regard for the traditions and practices observed by the Muslims of Nakasero mosque. The respondent’s agents renegaded on their International obligation of ensuring freedom of religion. They did not observe requirements such as removing shoes before entering the mosque, displayed contempt or lack of reverence towards some things considered sacred or inviolable by the applicants, to wit the Holy Quran, the place of worship, artifacts and teachings of the Jamiyyat Daawa Assalafiyyah Muslim Community,” he ruled.
“Considering the applicant’s evidence on record, the security agents left the premises looking like a dump and had no regard for the sanctity of the Holy Quran, the place of worship, artifacts, books and other documents sacred to the JDA Muslim community of Nakasero Mosque. The police raided the mosque as if they were raiding a market place which is a clear violation of the freedom to worship and the right to practice the Islamic faith teachings.”
The judge therefore ruled that everything done on that night was illegal.
Justice Musa Ssekaana also ordered government to return all items that were taken from the Mosque during the raid and search.
He also ordered government to pay the Nakasero Mosque administration to a tune of shs50 million as compensation for the violation of the right for the Muslim faithful.