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Human Rights Committee grills Justice Minister Otafiire

Otafiire talks to parliament's Human Rights Committee chaired by
Otafiire talks to parliament’s Human Rights Committee chaired by Jovah Kamateeka (right). PHOTO BY GODFREY SSALI

Minister of Justice and Constitutional Affairs Maj. Gen Kahinda Otafiire has admitted several things can go wrong in times of heightened political activity, but said there was no intentional violations of civil rights by government.

Otafiire on Tuesday faced the Uganda parliament’s Human Rights Committee chaired by Mitooma Woman MP Jovah Kamateeka and was tasked to explain the alleged violation of political and civil rights of opposition presidential flag bearer Kiiza Besigye’s supporters after the 2016 elections.

The committee also grilled the minister over the continued trial of civilians in the Military Court Martial.

Otafiire said the events like the brutality to supporters were bound to happen because several times officers act on their own especially during periods of tension like post-election. He said they were regrettable.

Committee chaire Kamateeka expressed concern that the process of prosecuting perpetrators is always slow. She said that the victims of torture are not compensated, citing an FDC supporter who was captured on video being allegedly run over by a police car while Besigye was returning from Luzira prison.

In response Otafiire said the ministry is doing everything possible to try all perpetrators of violence, noting that sometimes they are frustrated by victims who don’t report cases to the relevant authorities.

“As far as I am concerned, the government policy is that nobody is above the law. For the man that was captured on video being allegedly run over by a police car, we have not received any formal complaint.”

Otafiire added that “there is a process we go through for compensation. Whoever was run over by a police car should write to us.”

 

MP for Kilak South Gilbert Olanya demanded the minister explain why the government has continued to arraign civilians before military court martial despite recommendations that military court martial is not competent to try civilians accused of peacetime criminal offenses.

Kahinda Otafiire defended the move saying that most of the civilians prosecuted in the military court are those that are engaged in criminal offences similar to those committed under the military criminal code such as such as murder and armed robbery.

The minister briefed the committee on the extent of implementation of the recommendations of the Uganda Human Rights Commission 17th and 18th Annual reports.

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