Statement on the Upsurge in Human Rights Violation, Increasing Insecurity and Criminality in the Country
The Uganda Human Rights Commission is the National Human Rights Institution that is constitutionally mandated to protect and promote human rights in Uganda. Among its various functions is to monitor the human rights situation in the Country and make appropriate recommendations to relevant stakeholders as well as create and sustain within society, awareness of the provisions of the Constitution of Uganda. In this regard, the Commission usually pronounces itself on critical emerging human rights issues and in fulfillment of its Constitutional mandate, provides guidance to the country on how the human rights situation can be improved.
Human Rights Concerns
Over the past months, the Commission has noted certain incidents in the Country that have caused concern given their human rights implications. These include;
i. The Murder of a Boda Boda Cyclist and Mobile Money Operators
The month of June 2019 ended with a video clip of two men murdering a boda boda cyclist circulating on social media. A boda-boda cyclist carrying two men made a stop in a dimly lit suburb in the night; what followed was his gruesome murder. On the fateful day, Saturday June 29th 2019, one of the men is seen on a CCTV camera picking up an object thought to be a stone and smashing the cyclist’s head with it while the other gets hold of the cyclist’s motorcycle on which they fled the scene of crime. The Police has since identified and arrested the suspects and arraigned them in court where they were charged and remanded.
Media reports also indicated that at least five Mobile Money operators were shot dead in the month of June in Kampala and other parts of the Country. The police reported over 37 cases to have been recorded around the country since January this year.
With respect to the incidents of killing Boda Boda riders and Mobile Money operators, the commission reiterates the Constitutional stand under Article 22(1) of the Constitution on the right to life. The right to life is a fundamental right and the State is obliged to guarantee, respect and protect it. The UHRC appreciates the Government’s efforts to enhance security by installing CCTV cameras on the streets of Kampala and its suburbs. However, we still call upon Government to put in place more heightened security measures to protect citizens from such incidents.
ii. The Detention of Mr. Patrick Mugisha
The Commission was concerned about the detention of Mr. Patrick Mugisha, an advocate working with Mwesigwa, Mugisha and Co. Advocates who was allegedly arrested on 31st July 2019 from his chambers in Muyenga, and kept incommunicado by the Internal Security Organizations (ISO). Mr. Mugisha resurfaced on 4th August, 2019 a day after his family secured an order of habeas corpus.
Whereas the Commission recognizes the role of security agencies in keeping law and order and their prerogative to arrest any citizens suspected to have committed an offence, we are also cognizant of the provisions of the Constitution under Article 23 which clearly outlines the circumstances under which a person should be deprived of the right to personal liberty; as well the rights of arrested or detained persons which must be protected and respected. These rights include among others; access to a lawyer, relatives or personal doctors in instances that a person is detained. The UHRC therefore condemns such arrests and notes that Mr. Mugisha was also deprived of the right to a fair hearing which is one of the non derogable rights enshrined in Articles 28 and 44(c) of the Constitution and highly condemns such human rights violations.
iii. The Death of Local Musician Michael Alinda alias Ziggy Wine
The Commission with sorrow learnt about the death of local musician, Michael Alinda alias Ziggy Wine and the circumstances surrounding his death. Earlier reports indicated that Alinda, who was working with Firebase Crew Studios, had allegedly been abducted on 21st July, 2019 by unidentified people, tortured and dumped at Mulago National Referral Hospital Causality ward. The Police, however, came up with its official position indicating that the deceased was involved in an accident along the Kyebando-Kisasi stretch of the northern by-pass on 21st July 2019. He reportedly sustained serious injuries leading to his death at Mulago National Referral Hospital where he had been rushed by good samaritans. On that note, the UHRC calls upon the Police to expedite the promised investigations involving review of CCTV footage and issue a comprehensive report to the public. Furthermore, the UHRC calls upon the members of the public to cautiously exercise their freedom of expression through social media and calls for responsible reporting by all media houses.
iv. The Incidents Surrounding the Sentencing of Former Makerere Research Fellow Dr. Stella Nyanzi
The UHRC closely followed the incidents which happened at Buganda Road Chief Magistrates’ Court during the sentencing of former Makerere Research Fellow, Dr. Stella Nyanzi, who was convicted on charges of cyber harassment. People believed to be supporters of Nyanzi expressed their dissatisfaction with the sentence of Dr Nyanzi by throwing a mineral water bottle at the presiding Magistrate, Her Worship Gladys Kamasanyu.
The UHRC condemns in the strongest terms possible the disrespect and disorder exhibited by the alleged supporters during the proceedings at which Dr Nyanzi was found guilty of cyber harassment. The general public should know that under Article 126 (1) of the Constitution, Judicial Power is derived from the people and is exercised in the name of the people and therefore judicial officers are expected to be given all the support they need by both the state and the public so as to reach a just decision. The public should also know that in the performance of their arbitration role, courts expect particular behavior and decorum from not just parties appearing before it but also those who come to see justice administered. Courts have in place an elaborate appeal system which one can follow in case he/she is dissatisfied with any of their decisions. UHRC thus commends the work of the police in acting swiftly and arresting the perpetuators of this mob action and being able to prudently produce them in court to face charges. UHRC further commends the professional conduct of the trial magistrate.
v. Increasing Cases of Defilement
The Commission has also noted increased cases of defilement. Some of the incidents so far reported include: a teacher at Spring Fields International in Kibiri who defiled his pupil; a 13 year old girl from Agweng sub-county in Lira District who was defiled by a 50-year- old man in October 2018 and later developed complications after being confined in a house for about nine months; two girls aged 13 and 15 years from Buikwe District defiled by their grandfather, an LCI Chairperson of Busaale on July 23rd, 2019; a 16 year old girl from Bunyangabo District allegedly defiled by her father; and a man by the names of Musa Kyambadde,47, from Iganga District was also arrested for allegedly defiling and impregnating his daughter aged 14 years among many others.
With respect to defilement, the Penal Code Act under sections 129, 130, 132, 133 makes defilement and/or any attempt to procure defilement, criminal. Defilement brings with it a number of human rights concerns including impeding the state’s obligation under Article 33(2) of the Constitution to provide facilities and opportunities necessary to enhance the welfare of women to enable them realize their full potential. It also infringes on the right to education under article 30 of the Constitution and brings with it other health complications which may lead to loss of life protected under article 22.
The Commission would therefore like to make the following recommendations;
- The UHRC calls upon the Police to expeditiously conclude the investigations into the death of Michael Alinda.
- The Uganda Police Force should expeditiously investigate the mysterious murders of boda boda cyclists and mobile money operators and make their final reports public to reassure citizens of adequate security in the country
- The Internal Security Organization (ISO) should at all times operate within the provisions of the Security Organizations’ Act 1987 especially Section 4(1) and (2).
- The Government and the Ministry of Education in particular should strengthen monitoring in schools and come up with community sensitization programmes targeting communities where defilement is on the rise.
- The UHRC calls upon parents and guardians to put in place safe guards to protect girls from defilement and also not to negotiate with the offenders on ground of settling matters outside Court. Additionally, Courts should expedite cases related to defilement so that complainants do not lose interest in them.
- The public is called upon to use social media responsibly to avoid contravening the Computer Misuse Act, 2011. Likewise, the Press should avoid misleading the public and causing unnecessary anxiety.
The Commission will continue to monitor the human rights situation in the Country. Furthermore, we shall continue to fulfil our Constitutional mandate to ensure that rights and freedoms are enjoyed and respected by all persons in the country.
For God and My Country
Med S.K Kaggwa