Human Rights Report: Police Pinned for ‘Unjustifiable Arrests’ During 2016 Polls

FDC's former Presidential candidate Kizza Besigye (in blue and white checkered shirt) being whisked away by police under preventive arrest as he attempted to go to the Electoral Commission offices in February last year.

Human Rights Watch has in its latest report pointed out persistent human rights violation by government agencies in Uganda including suppressing freedom of assembly for opposition actors.

The report calls out the police force for ‘using unnecessary and disproportionate force’ to disperse peaceful assemblies in the run up to and after the 2016 elections.

The document gives specific mention to the controversial Public Order Management Act of 2013 which has been the basis of ‘unjustifiable arrests’. It condemns security organs for “using unlawful means including live ammunition to prevent peaceful opposition gatherings and protests, drugs at times resulting in loss of life”.

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“Police selectively enforce laws, including the 2013 Public Order Management Act, and unjustifiably arrest, detain, and interfere with the movement of opposition politicians,” the global report released on Thursday reads.

Police, HRW says arrested opposition strong man Kizza Besigye on several occasions in the run up to the elections claiming it was to prevent him from “disrupting business”.

“Between February and May, police raided and sealed off the FDC headquarters, arrested party officials, and beat supporters on several occasions.”

“The day after the general elections, police closed the FDC party offices and arrested Besigye, as well as other party officials.”

Shortly after President Museveni was declared winner of the elections, Besigye was “held in preventative detention at his home for over a month while trying to challenge election results”.

The police is also faulted for numerous deaths of civilians among them an incident in which police fired live bullets, killing one person, and injuring many others while blocking and dispersing FDC supporters in Kampala last year.

“Police also shot and killed 13-year-old Kule Muzamiru in Kasese town while dispersing crowds gathered to hear election results.”

Rwenzori region experienced clashes between the civilians and security forces after the 2016 elections. HRW described the events in which 30 lives were lost as having involved ‘extrajudicial killings and absence of accountability’.

“Human Rights Watch investigations into subsequent law enforcement operations concluded that the police and army killed at least 13 people during alleged arrest attempts. Multiple witnesses said victims were unarmed when killed.”

However, the Director of Human Rights and Legal Affairs in Uganda Police, AIGP Erasmus Twaruhukwa told ChimpReports that balancing human rights and policing can be quite a difficult task.

“It is not easy to respect human rights when you are dealing with someone (Besigye) who has made it his mission to act in defiance of existing laws,” Twaruhukwa said while responding to the HRW report.

He added that; “Preventive arrest which Besigye has often been subjected to is not illegal until someone has challenged its constitutionality in court. Article 212 (c) of the constitution gives Police power to act on available information “to detect and prevent a crime”.

While he admits that Besigye is entitled to freedom of movement and association, Twaruhukwa quotes Article 43 (1) of the constitution which states that; “in the enjoyment of the rights and freedoms prescribed, no person shall prejudice the fundamental or other human rights and freedoms of others or the public interest.”

He says Besigye has often refused to cooperate with police guidelines on his movements.


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