18 May 2017

Uganda: Museveni Directive On Torture Good Opportunity to Rein in Police

Photo: The Observer
President Museveni.
column

President Museveni has hit the nail on the head summarising the futility of torture as a method of investigation. When with each passing murder, police publicly announces it will leave no stone unturned in bringing the culprits to justice; it essentially renews its free rein to do all and the unthinkable to cover up the episode and move on.

With the murder of AIGP Felix Kaweesi in March, a raw nerve finally seems to have hit the nation's conscience. It goes without saying that key aspects of this murder were not different from prior murders of Joan Kagezi, Maj Kiggundu and others. These were signature crimes.

The group that has executed a number of Muslim clerics operates in a slightly different manner but with the same result. President Museveni seems to recognise this. He is also brutally honest by admitting the negative effect these events are having on the prospects of the country.

The elite group the President wrote to is perhaps the most educated group ever at the helm of the armed offices and police. Both police and the army are in the hands of highly qualified lawyers. Gen Muhoozi graduated at the top of his class and Gen Kale Kayihura graduated from Makerere as well. Below them may be some enforcers, Brig Peter Elwelu the Deputy CDF, was active in the Kasese operations; itself a joint army-police investigation that are still under a range of investigations.

By the time the President spoke out, a number of key events had taken place showing that things are getting out of control.

First was a bungled up investigation into the murder of the late Kawesi. If the case were to come up before a jury, none of the persons arrested would ever be found guilty given the mystery of where these people in the scores were found with little or no connection to the crime. This is a case where police in its wisdom did not find it fit to deploy sniffer dogs. This is also a case where police simply overwhelmed the national identification databases with fingerprints without giving a lawful justification why they kept on bringing fingerprints without pause.

Second was the failure of Parliament through the relevant committee, to get any information out of police why it was abusing its powers. Scenes from this committee show that save for three MPs, no one was willing to extract accountability from the leadership of police.

Third, the outcome of police's foray into politics has destroyed the necessary barrier between the armed forces and police and the political process removing a key check and balance. This level of familiarity is a major risk factor in coups and instability.

The President must also have spoken from disappointment. The much hyped PR events by police on the progress they were making fell flat on their face when stories of firing cops were soon replaced with permanent images of a local politician in Kamwenge in the press complete with rotting knees and raw human flesh.

When the suspects were brought to court, they had impaired mobility. Uganda is a party to the Convention Against Torture ("CAT") of the United Nations that bars the use of torture, inhumane and degrading treatment. In 2012, Uganda domesticated this Convention through the Prevention and Prohibition of Torture Act enacted in 2012. It is shocking that a whole Deputy Attorney General of Uganda is not aware of this fact.

The Minister of Security, Gen Henry Tumukunde, at a lower level has started speaking out against police excesses and police brutality. He knows a thing or two having been in the system before being ejected in 2005. He also perhaps has fresh memories of how he was shot at in the 2016 elections.

The country must quickly unite against the vision of barbarism and lawlessness. We must restore value to human life!

Mr Ssemogerere is an Attorney-at-Law and an Advocate.

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