Human Rights concerns on the recent rampant killings of security personnel and escalation of incidents of mob action The Uganda Human Rights Commission (UHRC) is deeply concerned
about the recent incidents of rampant killings of security personnel in the country as reported by the various media. The current threat to the lives of security personnel, who are constitutionally mandated to keep law and order and to protect the life and property of Ugandans among their other functions, is of great concern to the UHRC. Recent reports of gunning down of Abdul Ssebagala who was a security operative under the Police by unknown assailants in Lungujja a Kampala suburb and Cpl. Julius Owori the officer in charge of Dohwe Police Post in Namayingo district in Busoga sub region which occurred last week among others, isto us a cause for worry.
The Uganda Human Rights Commission therefore condemns these killings in the strongest terms possible because they do not only violate the right to life and a host of other rights and freedoms for the victims, relatives, affected communities and the country at large but raise serious concerns about the management of crime prevention in the country. The UHRC therefore, calls on the police to expeditiously investigate these killings, apprehend and prosecute the perpetrators of such heinous acts.
In addition, the UHRC is equally perturbed by the escalating incidents of mob action in the country again reported in the various media.
The UHRC has in line with its constitutional mandate of protecting and promoting human rights In the country severally issued statements calling upon all those concerned to address the problem of mob action and repeatedly made recommendations through a number of fora on how to stem the vice in Uganda. UHRC concerns on this matter date as far back as 2011 and have been premised on the recognition of the adverse effects of mob action on the enjoyment of human rights and freedoms on its victims, relatives of victims and the communities affected. The UHRC regrets to note that mob action in Uganda has now reached unprecedented levels as evident in the almost daily news reports of such incidents in various parts of the country.
The UHRC therefore strongly condemns the recent killings of security personnel and escalating incidence of mob action as these perpetuate a culture of no respect for life among the perpetrators and lead to the violation of various rights and freedoms. Some of the rights and freedoms affected by these vices include violation of the right to life; the right to freedom from torture; the right to protection of property and the right to just and fair treatment.
Recommendations on the recent rampant killings of security personnel:
Although the Uganda Human Rights Commission recognizes the criminal nature of the recent killings of security personnel and the steps so far being taken by the police and other stakeholders to address the problem, it also recognizes its adverse effects on the enjoyment of rights and freedoms of the victims, relatives of the victims and the country at large. UHRC therefore urgently calls for the following actions:
1. expeditious investigations into the reported killings be carried out by police in order to bring the culprits to book;
2. strengthening police capacity’ to stem crimes through efficient intelligence gathering;
3. strengthening the capacity of security agencies in crime preventive techniques by government and
4. members of the public desisting from engaging in criminal acts and taking the law into your own hands but instead handle grievances through established redress mechanisms.
Recommendations to various stakeholders to curb mob action:
The Uganda Human Rights Commission has been at the forefront in advocating against mob action in Uganda given its adverse effects on the enjoyment of human rights and freedoms. However, due to the fact that the vice has instead been escalating over the years, the
UHRC in addition to its earlier calls to government and the other concerned stakeholders urgently demands for a deeper study of the mob action phenomenon in Uganda in order to identify the root cause of the growing incidence of mob action, with a view to finding a lasting solution to this problem.
Although the UHRC also appreciates the steps taken so far by the various institutions that playa key role in ensuring realization of rule of law in the country and provide mechanisms for redress, we once again strongly urge for more concrete reforms and improvements in the execution of the mandates of all these institutions to check the escalating incidence of mob action, which is threatening to turn into lawlessness and anarchy.
In addition to the above call for a deeper study to un-earth the underlying causes of mob action in Uganda, the Uganda Human Rights Commission reiterates its earlier recommendations to the various stakeholders mentioned below:
- The Uganda Human Rights Commission calls on government to as a matter of urgency address the problem of un employment especially among the youth given the findings that many of the victims and mob participants are the unemployed youth;
- strengthen the capacity of the police and the judiciary to handle mob action;
- review the existing laws to ensure that they specifically address the vice of mob action;
- appoint more judges and magistrates to improve the capacity of courts to dispose of cases and reduce on the case backlog to build public confidence in the courts;
- elect Local council leaders so that they can handle petty cases to save people from the lengthy and expensive processes in police and the judiciary and
- avail more resources to the Uganda Human Rights Commission, Police and Judiciary to enable them carry out massive public awareness programmes to educate people on the existing laws, the importance of observing the rule of law, dangers of mob action and human rights and duties.
To members of the public- A Call for responsible citizenship and respect for the rule of law
- The UHRC recognises the fact that mobs actions are criminal and punishable under the law. Members of the public are reminded that the Constitution under Article 17(f) provides that each one of us as a citizen has got a duty to promote the rule of law and to cooperate with lawful agencies in the maintenance of law and order among many other duties listed therein. UHRC therefore urges the public to uphold our constitution at ALL times;
- The public is urged to follow up on cases reported to police and courts of law and to provide sufficient evidence as witnesses in courts of law whenever called upon to do so;
- The public is also urged to familiarize .itself with the procedures followed when one has lodged a case with police such as ensuring that they make a statement. There is need for continuous sensitization of the public on how the justice system in Uganda works;
To the Uganda Police Force
UHRC recommends that the Uganda Police Force urgently puts in place the following measures:
- vigorously enforce discipline in the police force in order to build public confidence in the institution;
- strengthen public sensitization through community policing programmes;
- ensure timely response to scenes of mob action. Although police has made some progress in building its capacity in terms of equipment and manpower, there is need to do more in these areas;
- make use of the visual news footages of mob action to identify, arrest and prosecute mob participants as a deterrent measure to would be participants in future mob action;
- sensitise the public on the risks of mob action and urge them to work closely with police by handing over apprehended suspects to police for appropriate action;
- sensitise the public on provisions of the law and the constitutional right of suspects to police bond and court bail;
- speed up the process of police investigations into cases to allow the court process to be expedited and
- enforce traffic laws and discipline among the boda boda operators while on the roads;
To the Uganda Prisons Service
- Popularise the community service scheme in all the prisons country-wide so that prisoners can work among their own communities as a confidence building measure that a punishment has been given.
To the Judiciary
- Open up more Community Justice Centers in most of the districts in the country to ensure access to justice at the grass root level;
- encourage the use of alternative justice mechanisms such as arbitration to solve minor disputes;
- carry out mass sensitization programs on the justice mechanisms and processes.
The Uganda Human Rights Commission is appealing to all Ugandans to respect the work of law enforcement agencies who provide security for our lives and property. We therefore urge members of the public to always remain law abiding citizens and desist from engaging in criminal acts.
We also wish to remind all of us that we chose to be governed under a constitutional order when we adopted the 1995 Constitution; hence the duty to recognize the rule of jaw as one of the strong pillars of governance in our country.
The UHRC further appeals to the general public to desist from acts of mob action in which people take the law into their own hands. Mob action is a lawless act, violent, cruel and arbitrary and is therefore just another face of crime and that you, I or someone close to you may be its next innocent victim tomorrow. We therefore strongly appeal to the public to always hand over suspected criminals to the police or to their local leaders for appropriate action instead of mob action which is now threatening the enjoyment of the basic human rights and freedoms that we all cherish.
FOR GOD AND MY COUNTRY
Med S. K Kaggwa
Chairperson, Uganda Human Rights Commission