Police must stop notoriety of abusing people’s rights

This Publication was originally published on Daily Monitor website on 30 May 2019

Uganda Police Force have again been indicted as top human rights offenders in the latest survey by Human Rights Network for Journalists (HRNJ )Uganda.

The report, which compiled incidents of human rights abuses against journalists in 2018, indicates that police committed 53 per cent of the violations, which included assault, confiscation of journalists’ working tools, their identity cards, blocking them from accessing news scenes and locking them up for several hours in police cells, among others.

Of the 163 incidents of abuses against journalists, police accounted for 87 cases. The report’s findings are not an isolated scenario of the Force’s notoriety in violating people’s rights through physical brutality.

The police have become perpetual violators of human rights in Uganda and in 2013 they were ranked top offender by the government’s Uganda Human Rights Commission and they have maintained that notorious rating for the last seven consecutive years.

The police have consistently been joined by the army among the top abusers of people’s rights through torture and illegal detention.
In 2015, police topped the list of human rights offenders and the Uganda Human Rights Commissions awarded Shs520m to the victims.

The highest compensation awards of Shs219m were against the police for 35 cases, followed by the Uganda People’s Defence Forces with Shs179m. It was a similar case in 2017 where police topped the charts for rights violations.

The Force’s leadership must take action on its officers. During the release of the HRNJ Uganda on Tuesday, police spokesman Patrick Onyango, said the Force management would analyse the findings and devise mechanisms of disciplining their errant officers.

However this appears a mere rhetoric without tangible commitment by the Force to rein-in their officers to stop such abuses against the citizens.

These violations have been highlighted in various human rights reports for the last seven or 10 years. Police management cannot claim that they are learning of these issues now. Why have they not taken action since 2013 when they became unrivalled perpetrators of these abuses?
The police have abused their constitutional mandate of ensuring law and order and have instead turned into perpetrators of lawlessness and crime.

The citizens have become double victims. They suffer police brutality and when the UHRC or the courts award compensation to the victims, it is again the citizens/taxpayers who pay for the police crimes.
For instance, in 2014, the UHRC awarded a staggering Shs1.1 trillion in compensation to victims of human rights abuses, which is a huge cost on the government and country. Police must stop this notoriety and become a people’s Force as enshrined in the Constitution.

HRNJ-UG Admin

Human Rights Network for Journalists-Uganda (HRNJ-Uganda) is a network of human rights journalists in Uganda working towards enhancing the promotion, protection and respect of human rights through defending and building the capacities of journalists, to effectively exercise their constitutional rights and fundamental freedoms for collective campaigning through the media.

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