May 26, 2011
We, Ugandans At Heart Forum members and international non-governmental organizations, write to urge the Ugandan government to promptly set up an impartial, independent, and transparent process to investigate human rights abuses during the recent“Walk to Work” protests and hold accountable anyone found responsible for criminal acts particularly incidents in, which people were killed or wounded. As Uganda actively participates in various international mechanisms and is committed to rule of law, we also encourage the government to draw on international expertise and invite relevant United Nations special rapportuers to visit Uganda.
We welcome that in your statement to the nation on May 17, 2011, you referred to the death of two year old Julian Nalwanga in Masaka as a result of shooting by police as a “criminal killing.” There is ample evidence that at least 8 other killings in April warrant timely and transparent criminal investigations.
Police have put significant resources into investigations of alleged acts of looting, arson and destruction of property by protestors and arrested hundreds of people for unlawful assembly. We ask that government work to ensure that equal efforts are extended to investigations and appropriate criminal prosecutions of security forces who used live ammunition and killed Ugandan citizens without legal justification.
Little effort has gone into an examination of the decision by the security forces to resort to live ammunition in Masaka, Gulu and various areas of Kampala in April. We applaud the arrest of the policeman in Masaka and hope he will be given a fair trial before civilian courts, but we remain concerned that no meaningful actions are being taken in several other incidents.
Alleged misuses of lethal force are incompatible with Uganda’s duty to respect the right to life, the responsibility to protect and violate international standards. The Ugandan government has international obligations, including those under the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, to investigate all police and military actions that allegedly violate basic rights and hold perpetrators of violations to account. International law to which Uganda is a party provides that exceptional circumstances such as internal political instability or any other public emergency may not be invoked to justify any derogation from the right to life and security of the person.
In September 2009, at least 40 people were killed when government forces responded with live ammunition to protests and demonstrations regarding the movements of the Kabaka. Hundreds of people were arrested and charged with a range of crimes for participation in those demonstrations. Despite multiple commitments from parliament and police to investigate the killings, no action has taken place. This uneven implementation of the rule of law undermines Uganda’s commitment to justice and perpetuates a sense that criminal accountability is political rather than based on equal respect for all.
Uganda is a current member of the United Nations Human Rights Council. In this connection, we urge the Ugandan government to engage with the council’s reporting systems, particularly to cooperate fully with the Special Rapporteur on Extrajudicial, Summary or Arbitrary Executions, and the Special Rapporteur on Freedom of Opinion and Expression.
The Ugandan government should immediately extend an invitation to these experts so that they may investigate any abuses that may have occurred that are covered by their mandate. This would not be unprecedented.Shortly after you took power in 1986, your government extended an invitation and hosted the Special Rapporteur on Extrajudicial, Summary or Arbitrary Executions. Beyond inviting these experts now, Uganda should issue a standing invitation to all the special rapportuers and the UN working groups to visit Uganda. Some 80 countries have now extended such a standing invitation including Ghana, South Africa, Sierra Leone, Zambia and Guinea Bissau.
In summary, we urge you to act quickly to:
• establish an impartial, independent, and transparent process to investigate human rights abuses, particularly incidents in which people were killed, during the recent unrest in April and May and hold accountable those found responsible for criminal acts.
• invite the UN Special Rapporteur on Extrajudicial, Summary or Arbitrary Executions, and the UN Special Rapporteur on Freedom of Opinion and Expression to come to Uganda and issue standing invitations to all rapportuers.
The Ugandan government should show its commitment to justice by using all legal mechanisms at its disposal to investigate these killings by security forces and ensure accountability.
We look forward to your attention and prompt response to these matters of concern.
NGO Sign Ons:
FHRI, Kampala Uganda
HURINET, Kampala Uganda
Human Rights Watch
National NGO Forum, Uganda
Posted to UAH asking for our cooperation in this matter by:
Foundation For Human Rights Initiative (FHRI)
P.O. Box 11027 Kampala
Plot 1853 Block 15 Lulume Road, Nsambya
Tel: 256-414-510263,510498, 510276