Uganda Human Rights Commission
Statement on the recent high handedness of security agents
Friday 10th November 2017
The Uganda Human Rights Commission which is constitutionally mandated to protect and promote human rights is once again perturbed by the human rights violations arising from the excesses of some security agents which have persisted. The Commission is concerned that inspite of our repeated calls to them to respect human rights in carrying out their duties, security agents continue to be high handed.
The country witnessed an ugly incident on Tuesday this week in which armed non-uniformed people brutally re-arrested some suspects in the Kaweesi murder trial who had just been released on bail by the Nakawa Magistrates Court. In addition, the print, electronic and social media have been awash with reports of recent clashes between proponents and opponents of the Constitutional amendment Bill to remove age limit particularly in parts of Northern Uganda, West Nile, Eastern and Western Uganda.
The Commission would like to express its exasperation at the persistent blatant abuse and violations of human rights that is bordering on impunity. In this regard, the Commission would like to draw the attention of the government leadership of the concerned security agencies to the following specific incidents:
The brutal re-arrest of suspects by unidentifiable gun-brandishing men
The Commission has severally voiced its concerns to security agencies over non-uniformed, unidentifiable persons, who on a number of occasions have been seen abusing human rights flanked by security operatives. In many of such previous incidents; while operating alongside or in the full glare of police, the unidentified persons battered people using sticks or manhandled suspects. However, the incident of last Tuesday involving the violent re-arrest of released suspects took this a notch higher, with the non-uniformed persons in question brandishing guns, in a busy public place.
Inhuman and degrading treatment during the rearrests
The Commission strongly condemns the manner in which the rearrests of Tuesday were carried out which was clearly a gross violation of Article 24 of the Constitution of Uganda which calls for the respect of human dignity and protection from inhuman treatment. As a Commission, we will not stop condemning such acts that violate human rights and reminding the government; particularly the security agencies about state obligations under Article 23 which clearly outlines the process of arresting, restricting or detaining a person. The suspects that were rearrested in the Tuesday incident were never told the reasons for their arrest; and neither did the armed, non-uniformed men identify themselves as required by law. The Commission notes that the action of rearresting bailed persons raises questions of whether the arresting persons had fresh warrants of arrest or whether their actions would not be contemptuous of the court that granted bail.
Reports of Police spokesperson of Kampala Metropolitan Police where the Tuesday incident happened of disowning the non-uniformed people who were seen grabbing the suspects and yet being assisted by traffic police officers are not satisfactory and leave a lot of questions to the country.
The Commission is concerned that the four suspects rearrested on Tuesday are being held incommunicado contrary to Article 23(5)(a) and (b) of the 1995 Constitution which provides that their next of kin and lawyers shall be informed and allowed reasonable access to the detainees.
Demands by the Commission
The Commission therefore demands answers from the concerned Government agencies, particularly the Ministry of Internal Affairs on the following questions:
- Who were the non-uniformed, gun-wielding men that carried out the re-arrests of the suspects who had just been released on bail by the Nakawa Court on Tuesday 7th November 2017?
- What charge(s) if any were the suspects re-arrested for?
- Where are they being detained?
- In what condition are they as detainees?
- Why were Article 23 and 24 of the Constitution of Uganda on the right to personal liberty and respect for human dignity and protection from inhuman treatment disregarded in this particular incident of rearrests?
- What steps have been taken or are being taken to bring to book the culprits who by commission or omission carried out the violent and brutal rearrests?
Detentions beyond 48 hours
The Commission further notes and is greatly concerned that the rearrested suspects have to date not been brought to court which is in total contravention of the 48 hour rule which is provided for under Article 23(4) of the 1995 Constitution of Uganda.
On our part, the Commission has been trying to trace the whereabouts of the four re-arrested suspects to ensure that they are in lawful custody in gazetted places of detention and that their rights are not further violated. If they are in lawful custody, they have a right to be regarded and treated as innocent till they are proven guilty by a competent court; they have the right to access their lawyers, doctors and next of kin; and they have a right to be produced in court within 48 hours of detention, the stipulated constitutional period and to be given a fair hearing.
We therefore reiterate our call to the arresting authorities to always respect and observe the rights of suspects while executing their functions as required of them under Article 221 of the Constitution and to desist from alarming actions reminiscent of the bad history that this country has gone through.
Call for calm during consultations on the Constitutional Amendment Bill to remove presidential age limit
Incidents of violence continue to be reported in various parts of the country relating to differing opinions during consultations of Members of Parliament on the Constitutional Amendment Bill to remove the age limit.
The Commission calls for calm from all Ugandans and once again urges all those for and against the bill to be tolerant of divergent views. We remind Ugandans that human rights go hand in hand with duties and responsibilities; therefore in the exercise of their constitutional rights they must always respects other people’s rights; act within the law; and cooperate with lawful agencies in the maintenance of law and order.
The Commission calls on the government to fulfill its constitutional duty to protect the rights of all individuals and to re-assure the country of the safety and security of everyone including suspects who must go through the due process. We urge the concerned government Ministries, Departments and Agencies to come out and respond to the concerns of the Commission and indeed Ugandans.
We continue to urge members of the public to report any human rights violations committed on them or their relatives or friends, to our offices located country wide or to authorities nearest to them.
For God and My Country
Mr. Meddie Mulumba