We must know that the Police are human and can act on false information
By Moses Kimuli
After my morning run on the March 17, I sat down to relax and have a cup of tea. As I took my tea, I checked my WhatsApp for messages from friends.
What follows is over 100 pictures of the slain body of AGIP Andrew Felix Kaweesi (RIP). Very gruesome pictures, I visibly remember moments of the young man whose life has just been ended. That day Uganda is in shock all day has people continue posting his pictures together with his bodyguard and driver.
A murder investigation is started by Uganda Police and for the last few months many people arrested questioned and cleared as we read from the press.
Weeks after footage emerges of allegedly tortured suspects being taken to court with some people claiming fresh wounds were visible and thereafter another picture of aledgly tortured Kamwenge Mayor Geoffrey Byabakama. Pictures show him lying helplessly in a hospital bed. I hear unfounded reports that Uganda Police have since suspended their own Police officers.
Two incidents hit my mind the murder of Kaweesi and the torture of Byabakama.The Police must answer difficult questions: Who killed Kaweesi? And why did you torture Byabakama?
Torture is the infliction of severe physical or psychological pain upon an individual to extract information or confession. This is most of the times used in extreme cases involving terrorism or gun crime.
I am out to find out whether torture can be justified however much its morally wrong and illegal. Uganda had seen a lot of murders involving boda-boda cyclist’s Muslim clerics killed, one judge and then it had come to the Police’s own personnel a top officer being killed.
Time to act and act firm this time to reassure the public. I believe enough was enough and so investigations were enhanced and arrests followed. Who was arrested and why remains the Uganda Police’s secret all we need is to listen to the prosecutor connecting the suspects to the murder and their motive we wait for that at the courts.
But is torture justified? I ask myself and I try to look at what the West has done in the past to investigate serious crimes including terrorism. After bombs in Kenya and Bali and an attempt to use a missile to shoot down a passenger plane, the US was scared another terrorism act would be inflicted on its citizens.
In 1995, Al-Qaeda planned to hijack 11 airliners flying out of Philippines with 4,000 passengers and crash them in the Pacific Ocean. The Philippines intelligence agencies suspecting a plot arrested a man suspected to have been a terrorist. They tortured him by breaking most of his ribs, burned his genitals with cigarettes and poured water in his mouth until he could not breathe any more. After 67 days, he came up with information which enabled the Fillipinos together with Americans, who were provided with the fruits of the interrogation to frustrate the plot and arrest more suspects. Four thousand innocent lives were saved.
Two things catch my mind in the above paragraph, imagine all that pain the suspect went through but he put up with it for 67 days before finally disclosing it. Battle hardened people trained to deal with pain and psychologically ready for anything including threats to kill them. You think getting information from such people is easy? Imagine putting yourself through all that pain for 67 days. Anyway, in the end, vital information is given that saves 4,000 lives of innocent people. By severely torturing this suspect lives are saved afterwards.
British Government authorised use of torture in early 1970s one memo reads, The then home secretary Merlyn Rees wrote to the counterpart in northern Ireland James Callaghan in march 1977. A British Broad casting service (BBC) in 2012 reported that water boarding techniques had been used and other techniques like food and sleep deprivation alongside being subjected to very loud noise for long periods of time were subjected to suspects. What is water boarding? An interrogation technique simulating the experience of drowning, in which a person is strapped head downwards on a sloping board or bench with the mouth and nose covered, while large quantities of water are poured over the face. In situations of extreme stress and pain (physical and psychological), human cognitive processes begin to break down, sometimes irrevocably – extreme stress and pain bring about false memories, reduce the ability to remember information, and seriously affect decision-making and memory performance.
In Jan 2017, the US president Donald Trump sent shock waves around the world by declaring that water boarding works and he believed “we have to fight fire with fire”.
It is on record also that ex US president Barak Obama defended the release of CIA torture report that revealed that Al-Qaeda suspects were kept awake in stress positions for 180 hours, subjected to rectal feeding and water boarded until they vomited. He supported the release of the report saying “when we make mistakes we admit them”.
A survey done in Dec 2014 found out that 57% of Americans believed that interrogation tactics such as water boarding techniques which are widely considered to be torture are successful in preventing terrorist attacks.
Many argue that okay torturing right suspects is justified but we must know that the Police are human and can act on false information. Shortly after the 7/7 attacks on British soil, A young innocent Brazilian student was shot eight times by British Police. The then Prime Minister Tony Blair said he was desperately sorry for an innocent man had lost his life but that the police must be supported in doing their job. The Police would have been criticised for not foiling the attack had it been a genuine attack. The then mayor of London Ken Livingstone claimed the victim had been a victim of terrorists’ attacks.
Torture is immoral and should not be subjected to anyone innocently but what do we do in cases involving battle hardened criminals who won’t give out information easily? Remember the one I have talked about arrested in Philippines whose ribs were broken and subjected to enormous torture but kept quiet until after 67 days, what do you do with such suspects do you release them after one day.
My advice to Uganda Police in fighting crimes is to try as much as possible to reduce the incidents of arrests following false intelligence, improve on community involvement what we can community policing.
I will leave you with questions do you allow torture if arresting one suspect and torturing him saves you 4,000 innocent lives or you compromise the lives of 4,000 people? My condolences go to families of those who have lost loved ones and want to reassure families of those arrested that we hope justice is done.
Let us all devise ways of helping Uganda Police to continue protecting us. For God and my Country.
Writer is the interim spokesperson of NRM DIASPORA LEAGUE based in London United Kingdom