The High court has awarded Shs 50 million to jailed Makerere University researcher Dr Stella Nyanzi for the violation of her rights by the government when it blocked her from boarding the plane in 2017. Nyanzi is currently serving an 18-month jail term in Luzira after being sentenced in August this year on controversial charges of harassing the person of the president.
The Shs 50m award stems from an application challenging the infringement of her fundamental human right when the government secretly placed her name on a “no-fly list” and confiscated her passport.
Nyanzi was blocked from leaving the country on March 19, 2017, to attend a scholarly conference in Amsterdam. By the time of the action, Nyanzi had already checked in at Entebbe International airport, but she could not get clearance from the immigration desk.
During the time police said it was investigating a possible case of offensive communication and cyber harassment against Nyanzi and she was required to assist police investigations, according to a letter from the Makerere University vice chancellor.
In a subsequent complaint to Joseph Obwona, the deputy director of the Criminal Investigations Department, Nyanzi indicated that her passport and boarding passes had been confiscated making her unable to travel. She demanded in vain to be removed from the no-fly list prompting her to run to court for redress.
In her application, Nyanzi sought special damages for the infringement on her rights, lost transport, visa fees, air ticket and hotel booking. In a judgment delivered on Monday, Lady Justice Henrietta Wolayo found the state in breach of Article 24 of the Constitution, which provides for respect to human dignity and protection from inhumane treatment. She added that the act of preventing Nyanzi from travelling was an unnecessary interference with her right to enter and leave the country at will.
She added that the decision to block Nyanzi was meant to embarrass her because she was eventually cleared to travel, although it was too late for her to catch the flight. She issued orders restraining the government from preventing Nyanzi from leaving the country or embarrassing her at a port of entry or departure.
Wolayo however, declined to grant the applicant special damages on transport, visa fees, air ticket and hotel booking since her lawyers from the Centre for Legal Aid dropped the prayers during the hearing.