Kampala. Security forces in the country including the army and police carried out at least 13 extra-judicial killings of people in the Rwenzori region shortly after the February 18, 2016 general elections, says a report from Human Rights Watch.
The 2017 report by the New York-based Non-Governmental Organisation, documents cases where members of the army and police allegedly executed unarmed civilians following violence that broke out in the Rwenzori region between February and April, 2016 which left more than 30 people dead.
“Human Rights Watch investigations into subsequent law enforcement operations concluded that the police and army killed at least 13 people during alleged arrest attempts. Multiple witnesses said victims were unarmed when killed. There had been no investigations at time of writing,” the report notes.
Maria Burnett, associate Africa director at Human Rights Watch said in a statement following the report publication that “East African governments showed little regard for the basic rights of their citizens to free expression and assembly in 2016,” said
A government spokesman called the report “junk” warranting “no useful response from us”.
“They should be ignored,” Col (rtd) Shaban Bantariza, the deputy director of the government media centre said adding: “we are angry that those fellows [Human Rights Watch] can’t be smarter than they are, fairer than they are.”
Mr Bantariza explained that the people killed had been armed combatants who attacked police stations, other security installations, and police and army personnel.
The report that documents human rights issues in the country that happened in 2016, however, does not record the November, 2016 violence in Kasese that left more than 100 people dead after the army and police raided Rwenzururu Kingdom’s Buhikira palace.
The Uganda section of the 687-page report also faults Police for using “unnecessary and disproportionate force in 2016 to disperse peaceful assemblies and demonstrations, sometimes resulting in the death of protesters and bystanders” and selectively enforcing the law such as the 2013 Public Order Management law to “unjustifiably arrest, detain, and interfere with the movement of opposition politicians”.
“While blocking and dispersing FDC supporters in Kampala, police fired live bullets, killing one person, and injuring many others. Police also shot and killed 13-year-old Kule Muzamiru in Kasese town while dispersing crowds gathered to hear election results. No one had been arrested at time of writing.”
The group further expressed concern over what it termed as violations of freedom of association, expression, assembly, and the use of excessive force by security officials during the 2016 poll campaigns and into the postelection period.
“The police used unlawful means including live ammunition to prevent peaceful opposition gatherings and protests, at times resulting in loss of life.”
Globally, respect for human rights is under threat, following what Human Rights Watch terms as the rise of populist leaders in the United States and Europe which “poses a dangerous threat to basic rights protections while encouraging abuse by autocrats around the world”. US President-elect Donald Trump is one of such leaders cited in the report.