Uganda: Police, Army Officers Warned Against Following ‘Unlawful Orders’

Uganda Law Society(ULS) has warned police and other security officers against accepting “unlawful” orders.

The association said officers should refrain from implementing orders which amount to torture or cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment towards people.

The warning followed the publicly circulated CCTV footage where several police and other security officers were seen violently assaulting unarmed and yielding suspects.

The incident happened as the officers effected arrests at the residence of Sheikh Muhammad Yunus Kamoga, the head of Jumiat Dawa Al Salafiya at Nakasero Mosque.

Kamoga is being investigated by police for allegedly confining 40 people aged between 14 and 28 at his home in Kawempe Division,

In a statement, the president of ULS, Bernard Oundo said in the distressing footage, the Police and other security officers “severally kicked, beat, tripped, and hit” the unarmed and yielding suspects with their guns.

He said this happened even as the suspects submitted peacefully to arrest and raise their arms in surrender.

In effecting lawful arrests, Oundo said the Police and other security officers must use no more force than is reasonably necessary to apprehend a suspect.

This, he said, means that in the case of unarmed and compliant suspects such as those seen in the footage, there is no justification for the use of any force whatsoever.

He explained that the Constitution prohibits in all cases any form of torture or cruel, inhuman, or degrading treatment or punishment.

This prohibition is not only non-derogable, its violation is an offence punishable under the Prevention and Prohibition of Torture Act, 2012 and offending officers are individually culpable and may be prosecuted accordingly.

“Police and other security officers are further reminded and cautioned that by law, orders from superior officers are not a valid defence to a charge of torture and neither is any perceived public emergency or security threat,” he stated.

He emphasised that police and other security officers have a duty to resist unlawful orders to take actions amounting to torture or cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment.

“It must be remembered by all law enforcement agencies that under the Human Rights Enforcement Act, 2019, infringing a suspect’s non-derogable rights, including the right to freedom from torture or cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment, will lead to a declaration of the suspect’s trial a nullity and their immediate acquittal thereby destroying any chance of a lawful conviction in deserving cases,” he said.

Oundo condemned the conduct of the “offending” officers, the conduct which he said amounts to a gross and unacceptable violation of human rights and the rule of law.

He noted that the recurrence of these and many similar violations continue to erode public trust in law enforcement agencies and must be halted without delay.

“ULS therefore calls for an immediate and thorough investigation into the actions of the Police and other security officers involved in the impugned raid and the prosecution of those found to have contravened the law,” he said.

Law enforcement agencies including the Police and the Office of the Director of Public Prosecutions are urged to take swift action and implement structural and procedural reform required to ensure that incidents of this nature do not recur.

Oundo said they will continue to monitor this matter closely to its conclusion and remain steadfast in its commitment to ensuring that the rule of law prevails.

Security operatives from the Chieftaincy of Military Intelligence (CMI) and Crime Intelligence late last week raided Sheikh Kamoga’s home in Tula zone, Kawempe Division, Kampala and conducted some arrests, raising concern among the public, especially the Muslim community.

The security raid reportedly followed complaints from relatives of the confined victims after the filed missing people reports at police.