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Human rights body wants journalists compensated for torture

John Cliff Wamala one of the Journalists who was tortured by security forces (PHOTO BY NICHOLAS BAMULANZEKI)

Kampala, Uganda | THE INDEPENDENT  |  The Uganda Human Rights Commission wants the security agencies responsible for the officers who beat up journalists at the UN Human Rights Commission office last week to compensate them for the inhumane and degrading treatment they subjected them to. 

The UHRC condemned the actions of the officers who were seen beating up journalists and other people when NUP leader Robert Kyagulanyi Ssentamu went to deliver his petition to the UN agency, over alleged violations of human rights during and after the 2021 general election. The commission expresses exceptional concern over the recent media reports showing a blatant violation of the rights of journalists and other people by some errant security officers”, says a statement. 

The commission reiterated calls for the observance and respect of the rights of all citizens, and people’s freedoms and adds, that wherever circumstances demand, the forces should apply only proportionate force to address any challenges as required by the constitution.

The Commission, however, commended the swift move of disciplinary action against seven alleged errant officers by the Uganda Peoples Defence Forces-UPDF and welcomed pronouncements by the Chief of Defence Forces who acknowledged the mistakes of the officers who had acted outside the force’s operational guidelines.

One of the seven officers was sentenced to a severe reprimand and the others were given jail sentences ranging between 60 and 90 days. The convicts were identified as Capt Jessy Odwenyi, Cpl Nimusiima Justine, Pte Wasswa Peter, Pte Tsame Imran, Pte Kisakye Victoria, Pte Opiyo Isaac and L/Cpl Zirimenya Kassim. The rights body said the brutal acts contravene Articles 24 and 44 of the Constitution of the Republic of Uganda, which prohibits any form of torture or cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment.

Articles 44 specifically and expressly recognizes the freedom from torture as a nondelegable right that must not be violated under any circumstances. “Such illegal actions also violate Article 221 of the Constitution which requires all security agencies to respect people’s rights and freedoms as they carry out their own functions”, the statement signed by Acting Chairman, Katebalirwe Amooti wa Irumba.

The Commission has recommended a raft of actions to be taken immediately, including for the concerned authorities to carry out thorough investigations into all the complex circumstances surrounding the torture incident, with a view to preventing any such occurrences in the future. It wants the relevant authorities and agencies to ensure appropriate and timely punishment for all culprits within the requirements of the right to a fair hearing and which should serve as a deterrent to other people”. 

The commission also urges the appropriate institutions and responsible officers to ensure that justice is provided to all the relevant victims, including the provision of adequate redress and compensation for the indignity, injuries and losses.

It also wants the leadership of the various security agencies to as soon as possible, put in place strategies for enhancing the awareness and ability of their members to observe human rights as they carry out their functions.



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