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Torture suspects must account for their actions

More than one week since the police admitted that some of their own had tortured Geoffrey Byamukama, a suspect in the murder of the Assistant Inspector General of Police Andrew Felix Kaweesi, leaving him with serious wounds and in need of hospitalisation, the accused are yet to face justice.

The police, who at first denied responsibility, say they have handed the matter to their own Professional Standards Unit (PSU), but Uganda Human Rights Commission and Uganda Law Society, among others, maintain these individuals should be promptly produced in court and charged accordingly.

Indeed, as custodians of law and order, the police must be seen to be champions of the law of the land, aspects of which they are always quick to invoke whenever they are executing their duties, especially in relation to opposition-related political activities.

However, recent events have led many Ugandans to suspect that the police are not keen to hold their own officers who err to the high standards expected of a civilised state institution.

For example, it took persistent pressure from the public to have former Kampala Central police station boss Aaron Baguma charged with murder in relation to the death of Donah Katusabe, who was tortured by her creditors over a Shs 9 million car debt.

Similarly, it took pressure for police officers captured on camera flogging innocent people, just because they had turned up to cheer opposition leader Dr Kizza Besigye in 2016, to be arraigned before a police tribunal.

The above incidents, to mention just a few, point to a police force whose first instinct is to hide its excesses and rotten apples who commit them until the pressure is too much to bear – then half-hearted action follows.

On torture, Article 24 of the Constitution is very clear: “No person shall be subjected to any form of torture or cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment.”

Police detectives must, therefore, not look to torture as a cheap way to extract evidence from suspects because it is not only inhuman, it is also against the law.

As Uganda Law Society president Francis Gimara put it, the police should abandon archaic methods of investigation that emphasise “obtaining confessions (guilt finding) rather than obtaining the truth (fact finding).” .

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