Rwanda teacher sues Uganda for $1m over torture

Monday June 17 2019

Rwanda Uganda border

A Rwandan security officer inspects a vehicle from the Ugandan side at Cyanika border post. A Rwandan Biology teacher has sued Uganda at the East African Court of Justice demanding $1 million in damages over illegal arrest, detention and torture. PHOTO | FILE | NATION MEDIA GROUP 

IVAN R. MUGISHA
By IVAN R. MUGISHA
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A Rwandan who claims to have been illegally arrested and tortured in Uganda has filed a lawsuit at the East African Court of justice demanding $1 million in damages.

The suit, however, will be more keenly watched for the diplomatic undertones given the bad blood between the two neighboring countries that has hampered movement of people and goods.

Mr Venant Hakorimana filed the case in Kigali on Monday through lawyer Richard Mugisha under reference Number 11 of 2019 of EACJ's first instance division.

Mr Hakorimana, 35, told Africa Review on Monday that he was arrested a day after arriving in Kampala in July last year and detained for ten months.

During his stay in a Ugandan prison, he was allegedly tortured by security operatives.

“I was working in Ethiopia as a teacher for Applied Biology. I was detained in Uganda in July last year where I had gone to visit and check on my property in Mbarara District,” Mr Hakorimana said.

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He claimed security operatives beat him every day "sometimes using electricity to torture me.”

After nine months of incarceration, in March this year, he was finally produced in a Ugandan court, where he was found guilty for illegal entry and sentenced to 12 months in prison or to pay a fine of Ugx1 million (about $266).

After he paid the fine, he was deported.
The 35-year-old will be represented pro bono by Rwandan seasoned lawyer, Richard Mugisha, the founder and partner of Trust Law Chambers.

Mr Hakorimana becomes the third Rwandan to sue Uganda over wrongful incarceration.

Ezekiel Muhawenimana and his wife Esperance Dusabimana are seeking $100,000 in compensation from the Uganda government.

They were charged in a Ugandan court and sentenced to a year in prison for illegal entry via the Cyanika border last August.

They served only for nine months and are seeking compensation of $100,000 from the Uganda government. They are also represented by Mr Mugisha.

In April, a Ugandan advocate, Steven Kalali, filed at the East African Court of Justice a lawsuit accusing Rwanda of violating free trade and movement of people by closing the Gatuna border in late February.

Rwanda last week opened Gatuna temporarily for two weeks to test the readiness of the one-stop-border post which has been under construction since last year.

However, goods from Uganda continue to face restriction at the border and many popular Ugandan products are missing in Rwanda markets
Rwanda accuses Uganda of supporting rebels while Uganda counters that the Rwandan's who were arrested were on espionage missions sponsored by Rwanda.

Since February Uganda has not allowed Rwanda travellers to cross over after Kigali issued a travel advisory that its citizens risked arrest and torture in Kampala.

The East Africa Community, the common market to which the two belong, has been studiously quiet on the altercations even as evidence comes through that it is hurting other members.

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