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Human Rights Commission Grilled over Police Brutality

MPs on the Legal and Parliamentary Affairs Committee have put the Uganda Human Rights Commission (UHRC) to task over the recurring abuse and mistreatment of opposition politicians. 

Hon. Asuman Basalirwa (JEEMA, Bugiri Municipality) said UHRC needs to act on the gross human rights abuses and reign in on security forces. He noted that in spite of the complaints, the police have persistently abused the freedoms of opposition politicians.

“People are not free to associate and opposition politicians cannot hold political rallies anymore because every time we try, the police frustrate us,” he said.

He remarked that the police have hidden behind the Public Order Management Act to deny opposition politicians a right to even hold non-political gatherings.

“The Act stipulates that before holding a gathering, we write and notify the police in advance but we are always ignored and when the day of the event comes, the police dismantle everything,” Basalirwa noted.

He asked UHRC to look into the training of all security agencies on matters of human rights.

The Chairperson of the Committee, Hon. Jacob Marksons Oboth, observed that police have been holding people in detention for longer than is required by the law without charge.

“I have been to police on several occasions and found people detained for more than 48 hours without being charged which is an abuse of human rights,” he added.

He told the Commission that action needs to be taken for these injustices to stop.

Hon. Denis Hamson Obua (NRM, Ajuri County) inquired as whether the Commission was investigating the extra-judicial killings committed by the police.

The Chairperson of the Commission, Medi Kaggwa, said he has in the past asked political leaders to come to him whenever they have such concerns but that they lack confidence in the Commission.

“The opposition politicians say they do not entirely trust us because we are seen as an arm of the government,” he said.

Kaggwa said that civic education is an important aspect that needs to be enhanced so that matters of injustice are handled.

“We want people to know that they need to report to us an injustice and we investigate, much as arrests cannot be immediate,” he said. 

He agreed with the MPs that police is only supposed to be informed when politicians want to hold gatherings. However, Kaggwa said, politicians need to heed to the recommendations made by the police especially those that are reasonable. 

“We ask the politicians to be open to dialogue with the security forces; when the police tells you not to use a particular route because it will distract business, please heed,” he said.

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