The Uganda Law Society (ULS) has reiterated its commitment to ensure that the errant police officers who recently participated in the indiscriminate beating up of Dr Kizza Besigye’s supporters, and their supervisors face the law.
According to the ULS President Francis Gimara, the lawyers’ body will seek to legally pursue the individual police officers implicated, in line with the October 2015 Constitutional Court ruling in which Justices Augustine Nshimye, Richard Buteera, Eldad Mwangusya, Prof. Lillian Tibatemwa and Fredrick Egonda-Ntende held that ‘police officers and other state agents implicated in the violation of human rights will be held liable as individuals and not as institutions’.
‘… the time has come for legal practitioners to consider in cases of this nature (brutality) adding as parties the perpetrators and their supervisors of challenged actions in their personal capacity so that they can face civil consequences for their willful disregard of the fundamental rights and freedoms of the people of this country,’ the five-panel Coram unanimously decided. Previously, the Attorney General, the principal government legal advisor, would take on the liabilities of all government officers implicated in rights violations.
Mr Gimara’s comments come in the wake of reports that a group of lawyers led by Abdullah Kiwanuka and acting as ‘private prosecutors’ had sued the Inspector General of Police, Gen Kale Kayihura and his subordinates, all who have been summoned to appear before the Makindye Chief Magistrates Court next Wednesday.
The officers, some of who are already facing charges before the police administrative court, include Senior Superintendents of Police (SSP) Andrew Kaggwa and Samuel Bamuzibire, the former Kampala Metropolitan Police south commander and the former KMP Field Force Unit (FFU) commander, respectively. Others are Assistant Commissioner of Police (ACP) James Ruhweza, the KMP Operations Commander; KMP South operations Commander Wesley Nganizi, former KMP North deputy Commander Geoffrey Kaheebwa; and Moses Nanoka, the District Police Commander Wandegeya Police Division.
Further, Mr Gimara said the ULS, which has a membership of over 1800 lawyers, would offer free legal (pro bono) services to the victims of the recent police brutality.
In a related development, Police Spokesperson Fred Enanga has said that IGP Kayihura and his subordinates are yet to receive any court summons. Enanga also argued that the officers were not acting in their personal capacity but as police officers working under an institution, the Uganda Police Force (UPF).
However, Mr Kiwanuka, who is leading the private prosecutors, claimed that the individual police officers had refused to receive the summonses, opting to be summoned through the IGP.
By press time it was not possible to establish what would happen in case Mr Kayihura and the other police officers snub the court summonses.
Over the past one month the police has come under severe criticism from the public for its excessive use of force that included beating civilians with shepherd canes (Kiboko) and most recently, the screening on social media of a police driver knocking down a man who was by the roadside. The man, who fell on the tarmac, was also kicked in the ribcage by a plain-clothed man suspected of being a security operative.