Kampala — Dr Kizza Besigye, the former president of the Opposition Forum for Democratic Change (FDC), has been awarded Shs10million in damages for illegal arrest by police officers who grabbed him from a Kenya Airways plane at Entebbe Airport, nearly three years ago.
High Court Civil Division that was presided over by Justice Musa Ssekaana, ruled that Dr Besigye was embarrassed when he was grabbed from the stairs of an aero plane on October 3, 2016.
"The police ought to have arrested the plaintiff [Besigye] in a dignified manner especially at the airport which is our gateway for tourists and foreigners coming into and going out of the country. Such crude manner of arrest paints an ugly picture to the country and could also have economic consequences," Justice Ssekaana ruled.
He said: "The Police knew well in advance that they were to effect arrest of the plaintiff on arrival. They should have presented written reasons for his arrest at the airport. This would have avoided the denial made by the plaintiff of the reasons for his arrest."
Although he had prayed for an award of Shs300 million as punitive damages, the judge said he did not find any justification for the said award.
Justice Ssekaana, however, observed that although Dr Besigye's arrest was effected in a rude manner , it was justified because people had indeed gathered at the airport in order to escort the plaintiff or engage in a procession that would have paralysed economic activity along Entebbe Road.
"The risk and danger of arresting the plaintiff from a big gathering would have raised tensions in the crowd and increased the amount of violence and clashes with the police. And also basing on history of the 2011 incident when the same Highway was blocked by the supporters of the plaintiff upon his return was justified in effecting his preventive arrest," he said.
Justice Ssekaana explained that he could not fault police for violating Dr Besigye's right to free movement and association because he (Besigye) ought to have put in regard the requirements of the Public Order Management Act including notifying police when and the venue he wanted to meet his supporters.
However, the judge said that it is the Attorney General who is liable for the acts of the Uganda Police which violated the rights of the plaintiff adding that he should have been added as a defendant and not as a third party in the case.
Dr Besigye, through Rwakafuuzi & Company Advocates, had sued Civil Aviation Authority (CAA) over alleged illegal arrest at Entebbe Airport by security operatives in 2016 when he was returning from Geneva.
Dr Besigye stated that on October 3, 2016 he was pulled off a Kenya Airways plane by security operatives who connived with CAA officials and that he was driven against his will, through remote routes from Entebbe Airport to his home in Kasangati, Wakiso District.