5 October 2018

Uganda: Justice Sector Improves but Torture, Murders Stand Out

Kampala — Unresolved murders, wanton torture by security forces, case backlog and congestion in prisons became the dominant dark spots in the Justice, Law and Order Sector (JLOS) report but overall progress in the administration of justice was also noted.

The years 2017/2018 witnessed the brutal assault on Parliament by security forces during the debate and passing of the Constitution Amendment Law that removed the presidential age limit. Many Opposition MPs were battered and or arrested by presidential guards from the Special Forces Command.

The JLOS report recorded 4,473 cases of murder reported in 2017, compared to 4,315 cases in 2016, representing 3.7 per cent surge in homicide. The report cites murder of many women in Wakiso District and other parts of the country and cases of kidnap. A total of 252,065 criminal cases were reported to police in 2017 compared to 243,988 in 2016, an increase of more than 8,000.

Chief Justice Bart Katureebe, while opening the 2017/18 JLOS performance review conference at Law Development Centre in Makerere yesterday, said while the sector has made impressive progress over the years, the recent murder cases have dented this success.

Commenting on recent torture incidents before and during the parliamentary by-elections in Arua Municipality and other places, the Chief Justice said such scenarios have portrayed the justice sector negatively and that efforts must be made to stop the vice.

Condemning torture

"It is important that we stand firm as a Sector and reiterate our stand against torture and all forms of cruel, inhuman and degrading treatment or punishment and emphasize that individuals should be held accountable for any acts of torture that they perpetuate," Justice Katureebe said.

The Chief Justice said the current prison population about 52,000 inmates but the holding capacity stands at 18,000.

"Congestion is still high. However there are other efforts to reduce the prison population pressure such as improved investigations, strengthened prosecution and enhanced case disposal," he noted.

Mr Jan Henk Bakker, the Dutch Ambassador to Uganda, who also is the chairperson of JLOS Development Partners Group, said overall, the sector has made big progress in ensuring justice in the country.

He, however, said the unresolved murders and incidents of tor

ture continue to remain the dark spots for the sector.

He cited last month's violence during the Arua Municipality parliamentary by-elections.

"Ugandan citizens have witnessed a series of still unresolved gruesome murders of women, politicians and police officers. Naturally, this creates unrest and puts the Uganda Police Force- one of the core JLOS institutions- in the spotlight of political and public attention," Mr Bakker noted.

He called for swift action against the perpetrators of torture against unarmed civilians.

"The law does allow the use of proportional violence if there is resistance to an arrest, but the moment the person is arrested that violence has to stop," he added.

Maj Gen Kahinda Otafiire, the minister for Justice and Constitutional Affairs, however, said as a developing democracy, Uganda should be forgiven for some of the things that do not go right. He said there is still room for improvement.

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