UHRC Statement on the recent ‘Shoot to Kill’ Order by the Uganda Police Force

The Uganda Human Rights Commission (UHRC) is disturbed by the recent ‘shoot to kill ‘order by the Uganda Police Force and urgently calls upon the Police to clarify the circumstances under which this seemingly blanket order should be applied.

The Uganda Human Rights Commission is equally perturbed by the escalating incidents of crime involving rampant killings of Police Officers and other members of the public in various places of the country, which currently pause an enormous challenge to the Police, given its mandate contained in Section 4 (a) and (e) of the Police Act (2006) to protect the life, property and other rights of the individual and the duty to detect and prevent crime in society.

Whereas the UHRC is cognisant of the national, regional and international legal instruments such as the 1995 Constitution of Uganda; the African Charter on Human and People’s Rights (ACHPR); the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (UDHR) and the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR) among others, which call for the promotion and protection of the sanctity of the inherent right to life by every human being, the current escalation of arbitrary killings in the country is a cause of serious concern to us. UHRC therefore urges the Police to take urgent steps to fulfill its constitutional mandate of protecting the life and property of all Ugandans.

As such the Uganda Human Rights Commission notes that in the enforcement of law and order,Police officers may according to Section 28 of the Police Act use fire arms under special circumstances that may include where the officer:-

  • has reasonable grounds to believe that he or she cannot otherwise prevent a crime or affect the arrest;
  • has issued prior warning for the use of force and the suspect has not heeded the warning and
  • has reasonable grounds to believe that he or she or any other person is in danger of grievous bodily harm if the Police Officer does not resort to the use of arms.

The UHRC however, further notes that while the law provides for the use of fire arms by Police Officers in the special circumstances outlined above, the same law requires that the force used by officersshould be reasonable, necessary and proportionate to the threat.However, if there are reasonable alternative means to achieve the objective, Police should not use force. As such Police can only be justified to ‘shoot to kill’ if acting in self defence and where there is proof that the threat was of a serious nature; otherwise the act of killing would result into extra judicial execution.

Noting the current anxiety among the public and the frustration of the Police given the current state of widespread killings and other criminal incidents in the country, we are deeply concerned about the increasing levels of law-lessness among the public which should be urgentlyaddressed. In view of the prevailing circumstances therefore, the Uganda Human Rights Commission recommends that:

  1. police should clarify to the public the circumstances under which the ‘shoot to kill’order will be applied in order to allay fears of subjective application of the order;
  2. police should exercise reason in dealing with the armed suspected criminals and apply reasonable and proportionate force while dealing with them;
  3. police should as a matter of urgency step up its intelligence gathering capacity to boost its responsibility to detect and prevent crime in the country;
  4. police should improve its community policing function to assist in  identifying and apprehending wrong elements in communities in a timely manner
  5. courts of law should improve their capacity to deliver fair and timely justice especially for the ordinary people;
  6. government should urgently revive the local council structures at the grass root levelsto empower community leaders to effectively play their role amongst  which is ensuring security in their areas;
  7. government shoulddevelop a databank for all people living in Uganda with their clear particulars right from the village level to the national level. The project of National IDs should be expedited.
  8. Police should develop a databank for all suspected and convicted criminals for effective identification, investigations and follow-up of  criminal offenders

In conclusion therefore, the Uganda Human Rights Commission urges the Uganda Police and allpeople living in Ugandato promote the protection of the right to lifeand property and government to uphold, protect and fulfill its duty to guarantee the enjoyment of fundamental human rights in the country.


For God and My Country