“Be informed that a new law, The Human Rights (Enforcement Act 2019) is now in place. Going forward, the entrenchment of human rights in police work will never be an option...” said the inspector general of police Martins Okoth Ochola in a Tuesday circular addressed to all police units.
“The common human rights violations by police that have been documented over the years include, but not limited to, detention of suspects beyond 48 hours, torture, denial of a right to a fair hearing ...” the circular reads further.
“Important to note is that responsible officers will now be required to personally incur the cost of compensation in the event of an award by court...” the circular says.
Section 10 of the cited new Human Rights (Enforcement) Act of 2019 holds public officers like police officers individually liable for violation of a person’s rights or freedoms committed either individually or in a group. The law clearly states that individual officers shall pay a portion of the compensation as has been ordered by the court.
Sarah Bireete, a human rights activist, welcomed the IGP’s circular’ saying it was long overdue. “It is a good development but the Constitution is very clear on the issues cited by Ochola. We hope that this marks the end of torture within the police and army because the police is now a mixture of both...” said Bireete.
According to Isaac Semakadde, a human rights lawyer, “The directive by the police chief is too little too late. The police and army have for long enjoyed unconstitutional immunity from the judges based on pre-colonial and colonial antics...”
Police officers have on many occasions been at the forefront of committing atrocious crimes that violate human rights. Most of these crimes have been committed under the watchful eye of the public. The common victims of the atrocious acts committed by policemen on duty have majorly been members of the opposition in Uganda.