What you need to know:
- The issue: Detentions
- Our view: These alleged crimes are ordinarily a police matter.
- Why does the army take over the police role of keeping law and order? Have the police failed and, therefore, called the army to fill the void?
The recent and current abductions or arrests of civilians and their detention in military or undesignated centres raise a query whether the army is not acting partisan.
The detainees, all or majority of whom, are supporters of the Opposition, had been reported “missing or disappeared” until last month when the President revealed that they were arrested and are in detention of security agencies - the army and the units subordinate thereto.
He ordered the security agencies to issue the list of the detainees, but it took weeks before the army released the names to police. It took another week or two for the Internal Affairs minister to table the list in Parliament last week.
The President has now disclosed that 51 more people, are in detention by the presidential guard unit, Special Forces Command. Many of them are accused of planning chaos before and after the January General Election.
Arresting criminal suspects is normal, but when the procedure is arbitrary and the arrest is executed by a wrong agency, it suggests abuse of State authority.
The detained people are accused of participating in the November 18 and 19 protests, which were triggered by the arrest of the National Unity Platform (NUP) presidential candidate Robert Kyagulanyi, aka Bobi Wine, of planning to cause post-election violence.
These alleged crimes are ordinarily a police matter. Why does the army take over the police role of keeping law and order? Have the police failed and, therefore, called the army to fill the void? Why are the suspects taken to military detention instead of police custody? The intervention of the army to arrest and detain people for political-related crimes, raises suspicion of a political crackdown.
The detainees were charged with possession of military stores/supplies. In one of the cases, 50 people are charged with possession of four rounds of ammunition (four bullets) yet they were arrested at different places and dates. How can 50 people co-possess four bullets as if they were found in one room?
Could the accusations of possession of military supplies have been used to justify the prosecution of political detainees in the army court, fearing that such charges would collapse in civil courts? Government cannot hide under the cover of the rule of subjudice to abuse the rule of law.
The army has not proved that it has recovered any gun from the detainees. So without a gun, how were they intending to use the bullets against government?
There is no reported incident where an army base or armoury has been attacked or broken into, so where did the detainees get all these military stores from? The army should be non-partisan.