Businessman Francis Matovu, alias Butto, has appealed the High Court decision dismissing his application against the government and the Speaker of Parliament, Anita Among, for torture. In 2021, Matovu petitioned the High Court through his lawyers, Sanywa and Wabwire, saying that he was arrested by police officers around Speke Road in Kampala on November 9th, 2021, and whisked off to Mbuya Military Barracks in a police double cabin pick-up.
He noted that the arresting officers grabbed and assaulted him before they checked him and took US$ 27,000 (about Shillings 96.2 million) acruing from the sale of his land cruiser registration number UAZ 188 F to Faruq Kibirige. Matovu explains that he spent three days at Mbuya Military Barracks, where he was detained in a safe house, which is a non-gazetted detention center, and tortured on the orders of the speaker.
Matovu told the court that during detention he was not allowed to speak to anyone, including his lawyers and next of kin. He revealed that his tormentors, who were dressed in army uniforms, kept asking him why he was defaming Anita Among, who was the then Deputy Speaker of Parliament. They reportedly interrogated him about a dossier that circulated on social media alleging that he was corrupt because of his alleged involvement in a number of corruption scandals, which he vehemently denied.
Matovu claimed that his tormentors beat him with a wire rod and sticks on his stomach, chest, legs, and back and immersed his body in extremely cold water for a very long time before they tied him to the ceiling in handcuffs, which caused him severe wounds on his hands. The real estate businessman later appeared before Buganda Road Court on charges of libel and offensive communication and was remanded to prison before he was released on bail. Matovu asked the High Court to declare the actions of the respondents as inhuman and degrading and grant him compensation.
On her part, Anita asked the High Court to dismiss the application, arguing that she had lodged a complaint with the police against Bigirwa over a malicious dossier that was doing the rounds on social media. Anita claims she had no idea Matovu was one of the masterminds behind the malicious dossier, and that his arrest could have resulted from investigations and information obtained by investigators outside of her control.
But in his decision delivered on July 27th, 2022, High Court Judge Musa Ssekaana dismissed the application, citing a lack of sufficient evidence to sustain the allegations against the respondents. The scars and healed wounds shown in the photos cannot also be satisfactorily attributed to the 2nd respondent’s or government’s agents due to a lack of corroborative evidence. “It can be said that these scars were caused by anything other than the alleged torture by the 2nd respondent’s agents,” ruled Ssekaana.
He noted that the court acts on credible evidence and not mere statements intended to hoodwink it and thus dismissed the case, with costs being awarded to Speaker Anita. Matovu has decided to appeal Ssekaana’s decision because he is dissatisfied with it.
“Take notice that Matovu Francis alias Butto, being dissatisfied with the ruling of Honorable Justice Ssekaana Musa, which was delivered on the 27th day of July 2022 in the High Court of Uganda at Kampala Civil Division, intends to appeal to the Court of Appeal against the whole decision and orders made therein,” reads the notice in part.
He argues that he knew from the beginning that he was not going to get justice the moment the file was allocated to Ssekaana, whom he asked to recuse himself from the case, but he declined and ended up dismissing his application as he had heard and been told by Anita’s friends that he wouldn’t get a judgement in his favor.
On February 2nd, 2022, Matovu petitioned the Civil Division Registrar, asking him to reallocate the case to another judge rather than Ssekaana. He accused the judge of bias and of being a good friend of Anita. “Your Worship, for justice to be seen to be done, the trial should be heard by another judge other than the current trial judge because there is a likelihood of a miscarriage of justice,” wrote Matovu.
He added, “I am an ordinary person whose rights were abused on the orders of the first respondent/Anita, and if I come to court and she also uses the court because of her position and comes to court on my last resolution, it will be bad to use ordinary people who can’t access justice.”