Statement on Human Rights concerns arising out of the arrest of Police officers and the Killing of Refugees in Nakivale Refugee Settlement

Sunday, November 5, 2017 - 16:00

Uganda Human Rights Commission

Statement on Human Rights concerns arising out of the arrest of Police officers and the

Killing of Refugees in Nakivale Refugee Settlement

 

Thursday 2nd November 2017

1.0 Background

In line with its constitutional mandate to protect and promote human rights in the country, the Uganda Human Rights Commission got concerned by the uncoordinated statements from police which indeed alarmed and stirred apprehension in the country as whole with regard to the recent arrests of its officers. The Commission was also concerned about the reasons for their arrest which involved allegations of kidnap of refugees, contrary to State obligations under the 1951 UN Convention and regional instruments, to which Uganda is party.

Accordingly a team of officers was dispatched from the Commission to verify some of the claims circulating on various channels such as the actual detention places where the officers are held; the process of their arrest; their condition following arrest; the conditions in the detention facilities and how they are being facilitated to access justice.

The Commission is equally concerned about the victims of the human rights violations meted on them allegedly by the accused persons either by omission or commission as well as their capacity to access justice and redress. The Commission would like to assure the country that although the suspects are senior police officers, no one is above the law. Article 21 (1) of the Constitution requires that all persons are equal before and under the law and shall enjoy equal protection of the law. In view of this, the Commission is closely monitoring this matter to ensure that whoever is culpable, faces the full wrath of the law and that the victims ultimately get appropriate remedy and redress so that justice can prevail.

Relatedly, the Commission was concerned about media reports alleging violation of the rights of refugees in Nakivale Refugee Camp in Isingiro district and set out to verify them.

2.0 UHRC Findings concerning the process of arresting the Senior Police Officers

The Commission established that despite the statements that were issued by various individuals within the police regarding its ignorance of the circumstances of arrest of its officers, there was prior inter-agency communication. The Commission learnt that communication was sent to the Inspector General of Police which was executed by the

Deputy Inspector General of Police Okoth Ochola. The officers were therefore duly handed over to the Chieftaincy of Military Intelligence (CMI) for questioning which led to their eventual arrest.

2.1 UHRC Findings during the visit to the Detention Facilities

The Commission established that the seven police officers were arrested on 24 th October

2017, and detained at Makindye Military Barracks. They were arraigned before the General Court Martial on Friday 27th October 2017 where they were charged with kidnap along with two others namely Rene Rutangungira, a Rwandese national and Bahati Mugenga, a Congolese national.

The officers who were charged were, Senior Commissioner Joel Aguma, the Head of the Police Professional Standards Unit, Senior Superintendent of Police Nixon Agasirwe, Detective Assistant Superitendent of Police Magada James, Assistant Inspector of Police Benon Atwebembeire, Detective Sergeant Tumukunde Abel , Speciay Police Constable Faisal Katende and Corporal Amon Kwarisima.

Three of the suspects (Joel Aguma, Magada James and Tumukunde Abel) were remanded at Makindye Military detention centre while the other six were remanded at Luzira Upper

Prison.

2.1,1 Allegations of torture

The Commission was informed by the police officers that they were not tortured contrary to media reports. The Commission observed that the accused officers were in good health. The Commission noted the observance of Article 221 of the Constitution by CMII which obligates security agencies to respect human rights in the process of performing their duties. We urge CMI and other security agencies to always comply with this constitutional requirement to respect the rights of everyone regardless of their status.

2.1.2 Violation of the 48-hour mandatory rule

The Commission established that the suspects were arrested on 24th October 2017 and arraigned before the Military Court Martial on the 27 th October 2017. The delay to produce the suspects before court within the stipulated period of 48 hours violated their rights provided for under article 23 (4) (b). We reiterate our call to all security agencies to respect the rights of suspects and strive to comply with the mandatory

48-hour rule within which to produce suspects before court.

2.1.3 Custody of property found on suspects during arrest

Some of the arrested senior police officers who said they were bread winners of their families, appealed to the Commission team to intervene and cause part of their a properties that were confiscated on arrest and recorded on the APP (Arrested Person's Property) forms, to be passed on to their next of kin. This was in respect of Bank ATM cards and telephone sets that were loaded with mobile money among others, to cater for the upkeep of their families. In this regard, the Commission urges the arresting authorities to consider the suspects' plea provided the property in question is not a subject of the investigations.

2.1.4 Trial by the General Court Martial

The Commission is cognisant of the fact that due process for the senior police officers has commenced and the matter is before the General Court Martial. However, the Commission would like to urge those aggrieved with the decision to try the suspects before the General Court martial to use the available legal processes such as taking the matter to the Constitutional Court for interpretation.

Recommendations

While the Commission acknowledges that the suspects are innocent until proven guilty by court, it is also worth noting that the arrest of police officers including the Head of the Police Professional Standards Unit is an indictment on the Uganda Police Force. The Commission therefore concurs with earlier calls by I-I.E the President of Uganda in calling on the Police to clean its house by taking due diligence in its recruitment processes, offering continuous training of its officers and punishing any acts of indiscipline and unprofessionalism by its officers.

We urge the government to pay special attention to the Uganda Police Force in efforts to restructure and re-tool the institution.

We also call for a fair and speedy trial of the suspects so that justice can prevail and the victims can get redress and reparations. The Commission calls for deterrent punishment of those found guilty to preempt such violations in future.

The Commission urges all arresting authorities to always carry out comprehensive investigations before arresting suspects to avoid violation of the 48 hour rule. Relatedly, the Commission wishes to remind the public of this constitutional right and to urge you to report violations related to this right to any of our offices located country wide or from any courts of law nearest to them.

The Commission calls on the media to report accurately and responsibly on this and all other matters of concern that may arouse interest, fear, anxiety and panic among the public.

3.0 UHRC findings from Nakivale Refugee Camp, Isingiro district

Following the attack in Nakivale Refugeee Camp on 28th October 2017 by mysterious gunmen, the Commission dispatched a team to the Camp in Isingiro District on Tuesday 31ST  October to verify them.

The Commission established that as a result of the attack a 14-year old by the names of Kijuji Ishime Deo was killed and several injured. The team established that the camp did not have adequate police posts to respond to security matters in time. The Commission condemns the loss of life in the Saturday incident and is gravely concerned by the laxity in security at the refugee camp.

3.1 Recommendations

We call upon government through its implementing arms such as the police and the Office of the Prime Minister (OPM) to fufill its obligations under the 1951 UN Convention, the UDHR and the regional instruments that provide for the protection of refugees, all of which Uganda has ratified.

The Commission further urges government to strengthen mechanisms to enable it fufill its obligations under the 2006 Refugee Act and the Regulation of 2010 as well as facilitate refugees in Uganda to enjoy their full rights enshrined therein.

The Commission calls on the OPM to strengthen the screening criteria for refugees seeking asylum in Uganda in order to avoid bad elements from sipping through the system as this may have the potential to negate the noble objectives of the refugee policy and the international reputation of Uganda as the most generous host to refugees.

We call upon government to urgently institute investigations into the reported misgivings in the way issues of the refugees in Uganda are managed and re-assure the refugee communities in Uganda as well as the host communities of their safety and security,

The OPM and the Uganda Police Force should coordinate to establish adequate police posts in the camp to ensure timely response to security concerns as well as strengthen the prevention and detection of crime.

For God and My Country

Mr. Meddie Mulumba For: Chairperson

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