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LAWYERS: Stop normalizing extra-judicial killings

TEAR GAS: Bobi Wine’s convoy battles through tear gas as they attempt to reach Kayunga during the elections. NETPIL have releases a report on violence in the elections. FILE PHOTO @daniellutaaya

Kampala, Uganda | THE INDEPENDENT | Lawyers under their umbrella organization, Network for Public Interest Lawyers-NETPIL have called upon the government and its security agencies to stop what they called normalization of extrajudicial killings.

Speaking on Friday at Makerere University where the School of Law was launching a report on the violence that characterized the 2021 general election, James Nkuubi, a member of NETPIL who was the lead researcher for the report said increasingly it’s becoming normal for people to be summarily executed and somehow the government justifies it.

A report titled, ‘The 2021 General Elections in Uganda; Human Rights Violations and the Spectacle of Violence,’ criticizes what it calls reducing to numbers of people killed during the elections.

“The right to life is protected under Article 22 of the 1995 Constitution of Uganda to the effect that every person has a right to life. The constitution provides exceptions to this right detailing that life may be taken away if a person is found guilty and sentenced to death in a fair trial by a competent court and the highest appellate court has confirmed the sentence. A robust process legally anchored with various oversight mechanisms is provided for before one’s life can be taken,” the report reads in part.

It calls upon all responsible state agencies to thoroughly investigate and makes public a report concerning all the people who died in November last year after the arrest of former presidential candidate Kyagulanyi Robert Ssentamu. The report also calls for a discussion on what it called the ongoing militarization of the country.

It noted that there must be a balance between legitimate national security concerns and the rights of the people enshrined in the constitution.

“National security is important but it doesn’t subvert the aspirations of the people neither does it subordinates the guarantees that are in the constitution on people’s rights and freedoms. We want to see a situation where we are moving away from our history full of arbitrary arrests, killings and forced disappearances,” Nkuubi said.

The lawyers were also concerned with the increasing criminalization of political dissent especially in areas where the government was defeated by the opposition.

Dr Chris Baryomunsi, the Minister of Information and National Guidance was unavailable for a comment as his known telephone number wouldn’t go through by press time.

However, two weeks ago, President Museveni said he was ready to handle harshly any security personnel found abusing the rights of Ugandans. He reiterated his earlier commitment for his government to compensate for the lives of Ugandans who he said were hit by stray bullets during the November mayhem.

He however said some of the 54 people who were reported as having been killed during the unrest were legitimate targets for trying to fight security personnel on duty.

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