Police brutality: Trial of police officers starts

(R-L): Andrew Kaggwa (RPC Kampala South),Samuel Bamuzibire (Field Force Commander,Kampala Metropolitan),Patrick Muhumuza (Commandant Fileld Operations Katwe Police Station), among other police officers listen to the proceedings in court yesterday. PHOTO BY ALEX ESAGALA.

KAMPALA- The trial of the police officers accused of beating up Dr Kizza Besigye’s supporters started yesterday with senior police officers denying participation in the beating.
The officers made their submission not knowing that the video footages captured at the scenes of the said crimes would be relayed minutes after.

Drama unveiled when video footages were relayed showing pictures of the police officers commanding the operation and beating up Dr Besigye’s supporters.

Mr Samuel Bamuzibire, the field force commander of Kampala Metropolitan Police, who alongside other eight officers and a crime preventer are facing charges of discrediting police’s image and unnecessary exercise of authority, denied beating civilians only to be exposed in the video. Mr Fortunate Habyara, commandant of Professional Standards Unit (PSU), who was the first police witness played the video footage depicting Mr Bamuzibire issuing orders while holding a pistol.

After viewing the footage, Mr Bamuzibire made a U-turn and said he gave orders after civilians hurled stones at the police.

Ms Catherine Kushemerirwe, the prosecutor, then asked him to show in the footage where civilians hurled stones at the police but he failed.

He instead said the footage had been edited and did not show all that happened on the fateful day.

Ms Kushemerirwe said: “Mr Chairman, there is no evidence in the video footage showing civilians throwing stones at the police. What we see are crowds pleading for mercy. If he believes that some parts of this footage are missing, he can bring them as his defence.”

The first defaulter, Mr Andrew Kaggwa, KMP South Commander, who cross examined Mr Habyara asked him whether Dr Besigye’s procession was lawful for them to accuse him of unlawful use of force to disperse the crowd.

Mr Habyara said: “Whether the procession was lawful or unlawful, the judgment is on the conduct while dispersing the crowds.”

Mr Kaggwa further asked Mr Habyara whether he was aware baton charge was the new standard of operation adopted during and after the elections.

“I am aware. But the judgement is on how it (baton charge) was used. Was it professional and sensitive? ” he asked.
Mr Denis Odongpiny, the court chairman, then asked Mr Kaggwa whether he had a baton during the operation, something he admitted.

“I had a baton charge. It is the recommended standard operation,” Mr Kaggwa answered.

Mr Patrick Muhumuza, Katwe Police Station field force operations commander, said he participated in dispersing the crowd but denied beating up Dr Besigye’s supporters.
By press time, cross examination of other constables Kenneth Muhangi, Moses Agaba, Sula Kato, Willy Kalyango and Dan Tandeka, a crime preventer was ongoing. The officers are facing charges of unlawful exercise of authority contrary to Section 44 (1) Code 24 (b) of the Police Act.
They were also charged with discreditable or irregular conduct contrary to Section 44 (1) Code 12 of the Police Act. Upon conviction, the officers may be demoted, dismissed or imprisoned in police custody.