The High Court in Kampala has directed government to pay shs50 million as compensation to Hajara Nakitto whose son was killed during the November 2020 protests in Kampala following the arrest of NUP presidential candidate Robert Kyagulanyi in Luuka.
On Friday, Justice Musa Ssekaana ruled that Nakitto deserves compensation over the circumstances under which her son was killed.
“The reckless or negligent killing of citizens strikes a blow at the rule of law and therefore becomes a sacred duty of the court as the “custodian and protector of the fundamental and the basic human rights of persons” to deter violations through police cold blood killings and torture,” Justice Ssekaana ruled.
“This court guided by the principles and observation in the above suit and the general circumstances surrounding the shooting and killing of the applicant’s son awards a compensation of shs50 million for the unlawful deprivation of the life of her son.”
Nakitto in 2021 dragged the Attorney General to court after her 15 year old son was killed during the sporadic riots that broke out in Kampala, Mukono, Wakiso, Masaka and other parts of the country between November, 18 and 20 , 2020 following the arrest of Robert Kyagulanyi, also known as Bobi Wine.
In her suit, Nakitto told court that her son, Amos Ssegawa was hit by a bullet by one of the soldiers on the back of an army pickup vehicle at Clock Tower in Kampala.
The bullet would later penetrate and shatter the right side of his mouth before exiting through the right side of his neck.
He was pronounced dead on arrival at hospital.
Nakitto said the death of her son who was then a student at Lubiri High School shattered her life that up to now suffers nightmares.
Without disclosing the amount, she asked for substantial general damages for the human rights violations and transgressions, inconvenience, physical and mental anguish inflicted on the deceased and his mother as well as punitive or exemplary damages for the for the high-handed, oppressive and unconstitutional conduct of security officers.
In his ruling, Justice Musa Ssekaana reasoned with Nakitto that where she could not identify the exact person who fired the bullet, it was one of the security personnel.
“The country was in a state of confusion as a result of riots in different parts of the country and yet it was a campaign period of the 2021 elections. It could not be possible for the applicant or her deceased son to identify who fired a stray bullet which ended his life. This court could not place such a heavy burden to prove the shooting was either by a soldier or policeman. I hereby find this issue in the affirmative and declare that respondent’s soldiers/officers’ shooting and killing of the applicant’s son violated the deceased’s fundamental right to life contrary to Articles 20 (2) and 22 of the Constitution of the Republic of Uganda, 1995,” Justice Ssekaana ruled.
The judge said such reckless or negligent killing of citizens strikes a blow at the rule of law which places a duty on courts as the custodians and protectors of the fundamental and basic rights of persons to deter violations through cold blood killings .
He said court must give compensatory relief to the victim by way compensation for the wrong done due to breach of public duty by the government of not protecting the fundamental right to life of the citizen.
“This court has a duty to give a suitable monetary compensation to represent a solatium for the mental pain, distress, indignity, loss of liberty and death. This court therefore orders the defendants(Attorney General) to pay the applicant compensation for the arbitrary and unlawful deprivation of the right to life of the plaintiff’s son.”
The judge however declined to grant punitive damages arguing that Nakitto had not made any justification for the same, adding that the court is equally mindful that it was a riotous atmosphere as the soldier and policemen were trying to keep law and order in the city during the protests.
At total of 54 people were killed during the November 18 riots and according to President Museveni, these were killed by stray bullets.