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Judges give human rights lessons to police officers

In July 2019, the Inspector General of Police Martins Ochola Okoth wrote to all police officers alerting them about the enactment The Human Rights (Enforcement Act (2019) and its repercussion on those who bluntly abuse citizen’s human rights.

“Be informed that a new law, The Human Rights (Enforcement Act 2019) is now in place. Going forward, the entrenchment of human rights in police work will never be an option...” Ochola wrote.

“The common human rights violations by police that have been documented over the years include, but not limited to, detention of suspects beyond 48 hours, torture, denial of a right to a fair hearing ...” Ochola illustrated.

“Important to note is that responsible officers will now be required to personally incur the cost of compensation in the event of an award by court...” the circular explained.

In a recent human rights violation case, Right Trumpets, Ampiire Aisha and Nansubuga v. AIGP Asan Kasingye and 13 others, the judge Margaret Mutonyi has held several police officers personally liable for torturing and violating the rights of inmates under police custody at Nagalama police station.

And for that offence the judge has ordered Detective Constable (D/C) Sarah Nankwanga to pay Ampiire Aisha and Nansubuga Saidat each Shs 5,000,000 for the tortuous act of blindfolding them during interrogation and inflicting mental and psychological torture.

The judge has also ordered the officer in charge of Naggalama police station, Brian Nyehangane to pay Shs 1,000,000 to Ampiire and Nansubuga for the tortuous act of concealing the whereabouts of their children.

The same officer has been ordered to pay Shs 1,000,000 to each of the two ladies for detaining them beyond the 48 hours without justification.

These women were arrested and jointly accused of conspiring to kill the former inspector general of Police, Andrew Felix Kaweesi. Their children were also arrested and hidden from them.

The officer has reasoned that he had held the complainant beyond the 48 hours because he was waiting for further instruction from “above.” But the judge rightly countered that by saying: any officer who violates the rights of citizens on orders from above or under the pretext that he or she is waiting for orders from above does so at his own peril.

In another case, Abbey Musinguzi T/A Abtex productions and Bajo Events and Marketing Agency Ltd v. The Inspector General of Police and Attorney General, Justice Esta Nambayo has found that the decision-making process and the decision itself of the Inspector General of Police 1st communicated to event’s organisers on the 19th April, 2019, indefinitely stopping them from organizing the ‘Kyarenga Extra Concerts’ at One Love Beach Busabaala, Lira, Gulu and Arua are illegal, ultra vires, irrational, unreasonable and an abuse of the police’s powers. And for that reason, the judge has ordered the Inspector General of Police to pay the cost of application.

Police misconduct and abuse of human rights is a long-standing matter of concern, which was even captured in the IGP’s circular. Police needs the public trust.

And such cases where the errant officers are held to account for their sins and pay from their pockets is an essential step in restoring the public’s trust in police and other security agencies

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