Uganda: Lawyers Want Police Stripped of Preventive Arrest Powers

Lawyers have asked the Constitutional Court to declare as illegal, various sections of the Police Act and Criminal Procedure Code that give the Force powers on preventive arrest and detention of people without trial.

Two human rights advocates under their Network of Public Interest Lawyers (NEPTIL) contend that various sections in the aforementioned two Acts, permit police officers to arrest and detain persons without any charge for an indefinite period of time.

Ms Anne Tendo, a secretary to the advisory committee of NEPTIL, and Mr Alex Martin Musiime, a member of NEPTIL's civil and political rights working group, claim the two laws violate human rights as to liberty and association.

In the petition filed before the Constitutional Court on Friday against the Attorney General (AG), the lawyers contend that Section 24 of the Police Act, contravenes articles 23, 28 and 44 of the Constitution.

This, they say, because it gives police imprecise wide, ambiguous and archaic discriminatory powers of indefinite preventive detention without a fair trial.

They contend that sections 24, 26 and 27 of the Criminal Procedure Code Act also contravene articles 23, 28 and 44 of the Constitution in that it gives every police officer wide and discretionary powers on indefinite preventive arrest.

"That whereas sections 24, 26 and 27 of the Criminal Procedure Code Act empower any police officer to interpose and or arrest any person without a warrant, the said provisions do not provide for a specific duration of the arrest and or detention effected under the said provisions," reads in part the petition.

The petitioners aver that Section 24(2) of the Police Act is amenable to abuse through arbitrary detention for unspecified and extended period of time without trial in violation of Articles 23 and 28 of the Constitution.

The lawyers are now seeking for orders of court to direct the AG to enact regulations and guidelines prescribing the procedure and duration of preventive detention.

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