The Inspector General of Police Gen. Kale Kayihura has called an end to the rampant abuse of human rights by police officers and other law enforcement agencies that arrest people under the pretext of acting on ‘Orders from Above’.
Kayihura’s orders were relayed by Catherine Anite, a lawyer who met with Kayihura and the Minister of Security Mary Karooro Okurut to protest the rampant arrest of journalists by police officers in Uganda who claim to be acting on ‘Orders from Above’.
“During a recent meeting with the IGP and the Minister for Security. I was so eager to meet Mr. Above. I told Gen. Kayihura that his men arrest journalists on condition that they are acting on Orders from Above. The IGP says he has not told anyone to arrest journalists.
The IGP told us to arrest any police officer who arrests anyone on Orders from Above.”
Anite’s narrative was corroborated by the Police Deputy Spokesperson Patrick Onyango who confirmed the IGP orders. Speaking at a meeting this week on the promotion of media freedom in Uganda and organised by the Centre for Public Interest Law (CEPIL), Onyango urged journalists and other Ugandans who get arrested by police officers under the blanket and illegal claim of acting on a superior’s orders to report to the regional police PRO for intervention.
“The IGP has tasked the Regional Police Public Relations Officers to arrest police officers who fail to come up with a substantive reason for arresting anyone and simply claims to be acting on ‘Orders from Above, ‘” said Onyango.
Kayihura’s directive comes at a time of strained relations especially between the police and journalists. In recent months, several journalists have faced harassment including physical violence, obstruction from accessing news scenes.
But with support from human rights defender organisations including the European Union, the journalists have fought back against
Police’s human rights violations by taking the errant police officers to courts of law to force them answer for their personal actions.
Currently, the Human Rights Network for Journalists HRNJ-Uganda is engaged in a number of court battles that seek to hold individual police officers to answer for their actions.
Some of the police officers facing charges of abusing the rights of journalists include former Wandegeya Regional Police Commander Caesar Tusingwire and Former Old Kampala Police commander Joram Mwesigye of beating up and destroying journalists property in two separate incidents.
In a related incident, The Sunrise has learned that the Police administration is interested in resolving disputes between journalists and individual police officers out of court.
Whereas HRNJ has recently pursued the police officers in their individual capacities under the Prevention and Prohibition of Torture Act, Police’s deputy publicist Patrick Onyango confirmed that the police administration has taken interest and has set up a committee to try to negotiate with the journalists to settle matters out of court.
HRNJ officials confirmed that they are engaged in out-of-court discussions regarding the case in which Associated Press journalist Mulindwa Mukasa is accusing Tusingwire of assault.
Harunah Kanaabi, a veteran journalist and one of the key people involved with the case says however that they have asked Police to issue a public apology for violating Mulindwa’s rights.
Onyango said that the police officer is willing to publicly apologize for his errant behaviour.
Recent interactions between media and legal professionals with police officers and members of the general public have woken up several police officers to rethink their actions with the view to respecting the rights of people.
Makerere University lecturer John Baptist Wasswa, also a former News Editor at the New Vision,
says that during interactions conducted with with members of the police, and the general population over the past two years revealed that police officers are really scared about facing the law in their individual capacities. He expressed confidence that the law could result into a greater respect for the rights of journalists.