The UHRC has observed with concern recent incidents where the Uganda Police Force has violently stopped lawful gatherings and peaceful demonstrations convened by elected leaders, and other Ugandans. These include: an event organized by Hon. Joyce Bagala Ntwatwa, Woman Member of Parliament for Mityana to commemorate the International Women’s Day – belatedly. In this particular case, the Commission sought an explanation from the Uganda Police Force in a letter dated 3rd April 2023. Unfortunately, we have not received any response from Police to our communication; an act we consider contemptuous.
Instead, the UHRC has taken note of even more violent actions by the Police including assaulting the Woman Member of Parliament for Buvuma, Hon. Suzan Mugabi on 21st April 2023 together with the District Speaker Hon. Gad Daniel Onyango. In another recent incident, intern Doctors were violently dispersed and others arrested on 24th April 2023 as they sought to deliver a petition to the Speaker of Parliament over their welfare issues. Scenes of Medical Doctors being rounded up like terrorists should not have a place in Uganda today.
Whereas the Inspector General of Police has suspended 11 Police Officers who were involved in the assault of Hon. Suzan Mugabi, UHRC is concerned about the growing trend of highhandedness in public order management, incidents of which cannot be simply dismissed as isolated and by a few errant officers.
UHRC reminds the Police that article 29(a), (d) and (e) of the Constitution of the Republic of Uganda provide for the right to freedom of speech, freedom to assemble and demonstrate peacefully as well as freedom of association. These are rights that must be respected in any meaningful democracy.
We further remind the Police of the provisions of Article 221 of the Constitution which state that it shall be the duty of the Uganda Peoples’ Defence Forces and any other armed force established in Uganda, the Uganda Police Force and any other police forces, the Uganda Prisons Service, all intelligence services and the National Security Council to observe and respect human rights and freedoms in the performance of their functions.
Elected leaders by virtue of their mandate must interact with members of the constituencies they represent in order to ensure meaningful representation. Members of the public also have the right to seek the intervention of their elected leaders through lawful and peaceful means. The recent events are therefore not only very unfortunate, but also illegal, unconstitutional and must stop.
UHRC will continue to engage the leadership of the Police through all available channels and we urge full cooperation. We call upon the Police to respect the law and act professionally in the performance of their duties. Stern and immediate action must be taken against all individual officers found culpable in the aforementioned events.