The United Nations Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights in Uganda (OHCHR) has condemned what it called use of excessive force and degrading treatment by police ahead of the 2016 elections.
Citing a recent incident where a woman was publicly stripped as police tried to arrest opposition Forum for Democratic Change (FDC) party members who were heading to Rukungiri district for political mobilisation, OHCHR country representative Uchenna Emelonye, in a statement issued on Tuesday urged government to “promptly launch an independent investigation and to hold accountable any officer or officers who may have used excessive force of subjected individuals to cruel, inhumane or degrading treatment, in line with the Prevention and Prohibition of Torture Act 2012.”
According to Mr Emelonye, OHCHR is currently monitoring and following up the incident.
“OHCHR is equally disturbed by the apparent use and frequency of preventive arrests by the police, particularly against leaders of opposition political parties. OHCHR is cognisant of the onerous responsibility of government, particularly the police, to maintain law and order as required in a democratic setting. However, such functions must be carried out in line with the commitment to protect human rights,” he said.
Mr Emelonye further urged government and its organs “to ensure that Public Order Management Act is not interpreted and applied in such a way that curtails the enjoyment of fundamental human rights, especially the right to peaceful assembly in the context of elections.”
His remarks also come just days after police arrested and detained FDC presidential flag bearer Dr Kizza Besigye and the party spokesperson Ibrahim Ssemujju Nganda under what they (police) described as “preventive arrest”, a colonial era mechanism under which pro-independence activists used to be either held or banished to far flung outposts. The duo was arrested from their respective homes.
Dr Besigye was arrested last Thursday at his home in Kasangati in Gayaza, Wakiso district following planned FDC political activities in eastern Uganda.
FDC through their general secretary Nathan Nandala Mafabi had written to the police notifying them of activities, including opening offices in Kireka, Mukono, Jinja and Iganga towns. However, the Inspector General of Police Gen Kale Kayihura said the activities would not be allowed since they included mobilisation for rallies.
“We have no problem with opening of party offices. However, by the fact that the exercise contains mobilisation of rallies, the police shall not allow,” Gen Kayihura said, adding: “We advise them (FDC) to postpone the rallies because the time is not due.”