By John Agaba
Police spokesperson Fred Enanga found himself having to defend the forces after various human rights activists tasked him to explain the reason the law enforcement body topped the charts of lead violators of human rights.
According to the latest report by the Uganda Human Rights Commission, the police are lead violators of human rights. They are followed by the Uganda Peoples Defense Forces in second place and the Uganda Prisons Service in third.
Enanga, in a calculated slow speech, simply said the forces are provoked. “You are dealing with a suspect who is not co-operative. You try talking them into surrendering, but they don’t listen. Instead, they start throwing stones, what do you do? Or you are dealing with a suspect who pulls out a gun. In this case you have to use measures that can counter that of the suspect.”
At the public dialogue by the Uganda Human Rights Commission on the implementation of the Anti-Torture Act 2012 at Hotel Africana, Enanga said most of the complaints against the forces were beyond their control.
According to last year’s report by the UN office of the higher commissioner for human rights, out of the 909 complaints received by the office, from January 2012 to September 2013, 590 were against security agencies, with the police topping the charts with 287 complaints.
The complaints against the forces include, among others, torture, detention without trial, trial of civilians by the Court Martial, and violations of the rights to freedoms of expression, assembly, and association.
However, Enanga said: “Many of these complaints are beyond our control. Like in the case of holding suspects for longer than 24 hours; that is when you are assuming that all factors are constant. But they are never constant. You arrest a suspect and he tells you he can’t give a statement without his lawyer. But there is no lawyer. Do you release him?”
“Some cases need a doctor’s examination before you can make the next step and doctors are not readily available. These provisions (unlawful holding of a suspect for more than 24 hours) are assumed when all factors are constant. But we operate in the real world,” Enanga said.
Samuel Herbert Nsubuga, the chief executive officer African Centre for Treatment and Rehabilitation of Torture Victims (ACTV) said about 1500 people are tortured every year. “But many of these are tortured by the same people who should be implementing the law, the police and other law enforcing organs.”
Ruth Ssekindi, the director of complaints, investigations, and legal services at UHRC, said the police have a role to protect human rights and officers (police) caught violating people’s rights, including torturing citizens, need to be punished.
“This is a criminal offence. Not all the policemen do it. But those perpetuating it need to be tried, publically, and given sentences so citizens can have faith in the forces,” she said.
The head of the EU delegation to Uganda Kristian Schmidt, who was guest of honor, said torture is the worst form of violation of human rights.
“It is not only a tragedy to the victims, but also the worst form of dehumanization any person can face.” He asked the forces to exercise leniency and patience when handling suspects to reduce the chances of incidents escalating into torture.
Jennifer Arinaitwe said torture was a gross violation of human rights that has to be given priority.
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Police defends human rights record