The Uganda Human Rights Commission (UHRC) is appalled by recent media reports of a Police Commander of Kyambogo Police Post ASP Okumu and two other police officers that badly assaulted a former employee of Mukwano Group of Companies Mr. Suuna Kassim at the Mukwano premises and the victim is currently admitted at Mulago Hospital after sustaining serious injuries from the brutal beatings witnessed by the country on Bukedde Television and other media channels.
The UHRC strongly condemns the barbaric, high handed and un professional behavior of Police Commander Mr. Okumu and his two colleagues who did not only beat up their helpless victim but also heartlessly trampled upon his neck, stomach and other parts of his body in full view of the public; showing no sign of remorse and in total disregard of their Constitutional duty under Article 221 which required the police and other security organisations to observe and respect human rights and freedoms in the performance of their functions.
As witnessed by the whole country, the actions of the police officers violated one of the inalienable rights; the right to freedom from torture clearly laid down under Article 24 of the Constitution of Uganda. These acts also exposed the victim to inhuman and degrading treatment by subjecting him to the use of excessive force which in the circumstances was unwarranted considering that the victim was unarmed and already vulnerable given the injury that he had earlier suffered on the job.
The Uganda Human Rights Commission sternly warns such errant police officers that unlike in the past when individual government officials were covered under the principle of vicarious liability, with the newly enacted law on Prevention and Prohibition of Torture in 2012, individual liability has now been provided for and this is the time to implement these progressive provisions of the law in order to bring the actual culprits to book.
Whereas the UHRC lauds the timely intervention by the authorities of the Uganda Police who have already detained the errant police officers and plan to subject them to disciplinary procedures of the Police Standards Unit in order to punish them for their unbecoming behavior and to administer justice; we urge the Police Administration to ensure that the principle of individual liability as provided for in the newly enacted anti-torture law under law Section 4 which criminalizes torture should this time be applied and as such the perpetrators should be arraigned before a court of law.
We are also deeply concerned that the assaulted victim was a person with a disability after he lost some of his fingers in an accident while on duty. The brutal acts of torture meted upon this individual tantamount to aggravated torture according to Section 5 (c) of the Prevention and Prohibition of Torture Act, 2012. It is therefore our earnest hope that the three police officers will be charged under this law to ensure that justice is done.
The Uganda Human Rights Commission further calls for the promotion of the principle of natural justice by ensuring that the victim who is currently languishing in Hospital and surviving on paltry handouts from well wishers and in dire need of financial support for the badly needed medical services will be able to secure compensation, rehabilitation and restitution for the physical, economic and psychological loss suffered. Such provisions are still found in the new anti-torture law Section 6. The UHRC strongly believes that application of the new anti-torture law in handling violations of this nature and magnitude will have a deterrent effect for other would –be errant individuals.
In line with its Constitutional mandate therefore, the UHRC has at its own initiative opened a file and registered this case as a human rights violation and our investigations into the case have already commenced. The UHRC team has already visited the victim Mr. Suuna Kassim at Mulago Hospital to record a statement from him as the first step in the investigations process. The Commission will also verify claims by Mukwano Group of Companies that the victim who had suffered injuries on the job had been adequately compensated as provided for under the Workman’s Compensation law, with the view to ensuring fair treatment of the victim.
I wish to conclude by re-echoing our call to the officers of the Uganda Police Force to uphold their constitutional duty to protect all the people and property and to keep law and order in the country. We also remind the police to uphold, protect, promote and respect human rights for all the people in Uganda during the execution of their work so that the Commission’s efforts so far in training the police in human rights is not in vain. UHRC pledges to continue to work with police to train the forces in human rights especially the newly recruited Special Police Constables (SPCs).
For God and My Country
Med S.K. Kaggwa
Chairperson, Uganda Human Rights Commission