The Uganda Human Rights Commission is greatly concerned by the recent reports in the mainstream as well as social media showing blatant violation of human rights by officers/men from national security organs.
Most notable was the incident that happened on Sunday 24th February 2019 at Seeta, Mukono along the Kampala-Jinja highway, in which a traffic police officer Sergeant Esther Namaganda was seen being roughed up by two men clad in Military Police uniform. The military men were identified as bodyguards of Retired Major General Matayo Kyaligonza, currently Uganda’s envoy to Burundi who was also at the scene. The police officer had reportedly stopped General Kyaligonza’s driver from making a U-turn. Peter Otai, a UBC journalist who recorded the scuffle was also allegedly assaulted by the military men while carrying out his lawful duties.
The Commission condemns in the strongest terms the assault of the police officer who was lawfully performing her duties. Worse still, the handling of a woman by male security officers is unacceptable and a clear affront on her dignity as a woman because it violated international human rights standards, particularly on basic principles on the use of force and firearms by law enforcement officials.
The Commission commends Sergeant Namaganda for remaining steadfast and sticking to the requirements of the law without fear or favour. She stood her ground amidst enormous pressure and the consequent manhandling she endured. Police Officer William Aliku who reportedly tried to intervene calling for calm and reason; and eventually driving her away, is equally commended.
The Commission’s attention was also drawn to an appalling video clip circulating on social media showing men and women clad in police and military uniforms brutalising a woman suspect. The clip shows the brutal arrest of an un-named lady in what appeared to be a joint operation by security personnel who was half stripped and roughly bundled onto a police pick-up upon which she was forcefully thrown off the seat onto the floor, exposing her undergarments in the process. Even though the identities of the security personnel and their victim are still unknown, the Commission condemns the brutality exhibited on an unarmed suspect against all decency and reason. We will investigate this incident with a view to establish who the culprits were in order for them to be brought to account.
The Commission strongly condemns all the horrific actions by some security personnel as shown in the incidents cited above which were in clear contravention of Article 24 of the Constitution of Uganda and the International Convention Against Torture which prohibit the subjecting of any person to any form of torture or cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment. Article 44 (a) of the Constitution provides for the freedom from torture or cruel, inhuman and degrading treatment or punishment as a non-derogable right which cannot be justified under any circumstances.
In light of the above, the Commission strongly cautions security agencies against negating their Constitutional obligations to fulfill their duty to observe and respect human rights and freedoms at all times in the performance of their functions. This is an obligation under Article 221 of the Constitution of Uganda.
Whereas the swift and timely action by the UPDF and Uganda Police Force in apprehending the errant officers in the Seeta fracas is commended, the Commission demands the following immediate actions:
- Prosecution of the perpetrators under the Prevention and Prohibition of Torture Act, 2012, which provides for individual liability of the security officers whose actions were in this case tantamount to violation of the victims’ enjoyment of the right to respect for human dignity and protection from inhuman treatment;
- Thorough investigations of Major General Kyaligonza’s role in the Seeta fracas to establish his innocence or responsibility/liability for acts of his body guards in accordance with Section 10 of the Prevention and Prohibition of Torture Act, 2012;
- Transparent, fair, expeditious and public process as the law takes its course in bringing the culprits to book;
- Redress for the victims which should ensure adequate compensation and reparation for the indignity, injury and losses suffered in the process;
- The UPDF and Uganda Police Force should immediately institute administrative sanctions against all the individuals identified to have perpetrated the cited human rights violations as a deterrent measure to other security personnel.
- Deliberate and evident efforts by the leadership of the security organs across the board to isolate and sanction any of their officers when they perpetrate any acts of human rights violations against the citizens of Uganda, regardless of rank or position.