Police under fire over Ingrid arrest

Television image grabs showing the brutal arrest of FDC Women League leader Ingrid Turinawe on Friday. COURTESY OF NTV

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Members of Parliament, rights activists and a bishop yesterday criticised the Police for the brutal assault of the opposition politician on Friday.

Uganda’s police was last evening asked to apologise as it came under a barrage of criticism from women and human rights defenders scandalised by the latest assault of a female opposition activist by its officers.
Forum for Democratic Change Women’s League leader Ingrid Turinawe had her right breast repeatedly grabbed and fondled by what looked a policeman on Friday.

She was assaulted on her way to a protest rally in Nansana, outside Kampala.

Yesterday, the Kampala Metropolitan Police Spokesperson, Mr Ibin Ssenkumbi, insisted that policewomen carried out the arrest.

“But all the same, there have been concerns over the arresting exercise. The police are investigating the mistakes committed during the incident and whoever will be found in error will be disciplined,” he said in a telephone interview.

Women and rights activists described the treatment of Ms Turinawe as brutal, cruel and condemned the Force for violence against women.

Ms Betty Amongi, the chairperson of the Uganda Women Parliamentary Association, said the police officers targeted Ms Turinawe to humiliate her.

“It is an attack on her womanhood and the arrest was against the policy of employing women in the Force. We demand an apology and action against the errant officers,” Ms Amongi said, adding that this was an attack against women.

Dokolo Woman MP Cecilia Ogwal and Ms Alice Alaso, the Serere Woman MP, described the act as painful, inhuman and evil.

“What Ingrid was given cannot be given to a prisoner of war. We have been hearing of women suspects being raped in custody by police officers and we were discounting them. But the man who handled Ingrid would have raped her if he had an opportunity,” Ms Alaso said.

Information Minister Mary Karooro Okurut, who last week protested to a local tabloid over what she felt was its undermining of women in a story about the alleged attractiveness of particular women MPs, was brief in her reaction.
“I am not aware of the incident but if it is true, it is a police case,” she said.

Opposition politician Anne Mugisha, in an email, stated that the incident was further confirmation of police brutality against protestors.

She said since April 2011, women at the forefront of the walk-to-work protests have come face-to-face with bare-knuckled brutality.

Ms Mugisha’s statement recalled how a two-year-old baby girl Juliana Nalwanga was shot dead by security men and how a pregnant woman almost died after being shot in the belly.

“Over time, women have remained active in the protests and police brutality against them has continued. However, the silence of the women’s movement over the treatment of these women activists has been deafening,” she said.
Ms Mugisha promising action against the police for allowing “this nauseating behaviour”, also decrying “sexual violence and any other kind against peaceful protestors.”

Mr Livingstone Sewanyana, the executive director at the Foundation for Human Rights Initiative, regretted the dehumanising actions of police officers .

“Police is increasingly becoming an unfriendly force due to the forceful means, teargas, assaults and people being (stuffed) under pick-up truck seats. Such acts show poor attitude, indiscipline and ruthlessness,” he said.

Unlawful act
Independent Voice activist Sarah Nanzigu of Makerere University College of Health Sciences said: “Irrespective of whether the victim did or did not commit an offence, what was witnessed was policemen molesting and indecently torturing Ms Turinawe. The act should be treated as unlawful.”

Recently, the Uganda Law Society president, Mr James Sebugenyi, said the police should not act in a manner that is inconsistent with the law.
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