By Pascal Kwesiga
THE Uganda Human Rights Commission (UHRC) has warned the Police against enforcing the shoot-to-kill order, saying there is a possibility of it being abused.
UHRC chairperson Med Kaggwa said although the shoot-to-kill order is legitimate under special circumstances, there is a high likelihood of trigger-happy police officers abusing it, in light of the escalating violent crimes during which some police officers have been killed.
“Noting the current anxiety in the public and frustration of the Police due to the widespread killings and other criminal incidents, the Police should clarify the circumstances under which the shoot-to-kill order will be applied,” the statement issued by UHRC reads. Kaggwa, who issued the statement during a press briefing in Kampala on Friday, said the order should not be enforced without clarifying the legal circumstances under which it will be applied.
He, however, noted that the same law requires that the force used should be reasonable, necessary and proportionate to the threat.
“If there are reasonable alternatives to achieve the objective, the Police should not use force. They can only be justified to implement the order when acting in self-defence and where there is proof that the threat was of a serious nature. Otherwise, this would result into extra-judicial executions,” he added.
Flanked by Col. Steven Basaliza, the central region UHRC boss, the rights body chairperson told journalists that clarifying the circumstances under which the order will be invoked will allay fears of its subjective application.
He asked the Police to remain mindful of the national, regional international legal instruments that call for the protection of the sanctity of the inherent right to life and the principal of presumption of innocence until a suspect has been found guilty.
Instead of enforcing the shoot-to-kill order, Kaggwa said the Government should beef up the Police’s intelligence gathering machinery to detect and prevent crime, reinforce community policing, revive local council administration structures and speed up the issuance of identity cards to Ugandans.
Deputy Police spokesperson Patrick Onyango said the order was already being enforced, adding that officers deployed to handle operations that are likely to require the use of firearms against the suspected criminals are well-versed with the law.
“The order is being enforced and we are not out to just kill suspected criminals. The law allows us to gather intelligence about for example a planned robbery and if the robbers have weapons, we fire warning shots and order them to put down their arms and surrender. But if they fire at us we respond with fire,” he said.