The Uganda Police Force (UPF) has revealed plans to undertake numerous initiatives aimed at recovering public trust in regard to observance of human rights.
This follows widespread criticism of the police by the media, malady human rights groups, sales the opposition and general public towards its alleged torture of several of the suspected criminals in its custody.
In April, more about some of the 13 suspects detained in the Nalufenya police facility in relation to the murder of former Assistant Inspector General of Police (AIGP) Andrew Felix Kaweesi told court that they had been subjected to torture.
Weeks later, images emerged in the media of Geoffrey Byamukama, the Mayor of Kamwenge town council who was bed ridden at Nakasero Hospital.
He had been nursing deep wounds on his knees and ankles which he said were inflicted on him by police officers who beat him using iron bars enroute to Nalufenya after his arrest in Kampala on April 5.
This further stirred public anger towards the police force which has for several years been named the institution with the most human rights violations by Uganda Human Rights Commission.
While addressing the press on Monday, Police spokesperson AIGP Asan Kasingye said that; “The police is concerned with the continued reports indicating the institution to be the highest on the list of human rights abuse.”
“It is not a position we envy and we are embarking on a serious campaign within the Force to completely eradicate this and observe our constitutional mandate,” Kasingye added.
In this campaign to restore public trust, he said several actions including; strengthening of the Human Rights and Legal Directorate, training of police officers in human rights and publishing of Police Standards Unit reports will be undertaken.
The Force also intends to facilitate periodic visits by rights groups, civil society and Parliamentary commuters as well as taking serious criminal action against perpetrators of rights abuses and regularly engaging the media on progress.
“Police does not condone acts of torture and we call upon the public to report to us about officers who abuse human rights. These officers will be charged accordingly,” the Police spokesperson told the press at Naguru Police headquarters.
Beside the four police officers who were charged last week with ‘torture’ and ‘causing grievous harm’ on Byamukama, police says some other officers are still on the run and will be arrested and charged. Kasingye however was hesitant to reveal their identities saying investigations were ongoing.
Kasingye admitted that there have been gaps in the command and control at the different police posts.
“If somebody is arrested for any offence and brought to a station, before you admit them into your station, you must indicate in the station diary the condition in which that person is brought.”
Central to the issue of human rights violations by police has often been the controversial question of use of ‘reasonable’ and ‘necessary’ force especially during arrest and public order management.
When tasked to explain the distinction, Kasingye responded; “The force used by Police is guided by the law. The force that we use must be reasonable to overcome the force used to resist arrest. Say an individual punches an officer in the course of arrest, if the officer pulls out a gun and shoots, the latter will have used excessive force.”
In extraction of information from suspected criminals, he said police has constitutional methods to use even in circumstances where the suspect is uncooperative.
“In cases where people communicate on phone, I don’t need to beat you in order for you to tell me whether you know somebody. I can go to court and get irritractible evidence from your phone records.”