Kampala. President Museveni has again written to security forces asking them to refrain from using brutality against suspects and provided what he called guidelines in handling rioters, terrorists and other suspected criminals during arrest or while in custody.
“I am writing to guide you and the public on the two issues of managing rioters, terrorists, criminals and looters on the one hand, and on the issue of the proper methods of arresting suspects and handling them,
while in custody, on the other hand,” President wrote to the Chief of Defence Forces, Inspector General of Police and Directors General of Internal Security and External Security organisations on October 23.
The President’s letter comes five days after armed security men were captured on video brutally arresting Mr Yusuf Kawooya on the street in the city centre and hitting him hard with gun butts before bundling him into a van and whisking him away.
The violent arrest went viral on social media and the mainstream media. Mr Kawooya was later found at the Special Investigations Unit in Kireka after a week of frantic search by family and lawyers.
He has since been released after a weeklong interrogation on alleged links to rebels and association with sheikhs implicated in the assassination of other Muslim clerics.
“When I inquired, the concerned people told me that the suspect had been bitten him (okuruma). That is very serious because some of the [suspected] criminals have got infectious diseases.
Our officer can be infected in that way and that should be an extra charge put on him,” Mr Museveni said in his letter shared by his press secretary Don Wanyama.
“The appropriate response would have been to box him hard so that he stops biting our officer. That would be self-defence which is very legitimate.
Hitting him with a rifle butt after he has stopped biting you, however, is both vengeance and also usurping the role of the punisher (the courts),” Mr Museveni said without naming the suspect, widely perceived to be Mr Kawooya.
The Kawooya violent arrest attracted criticism from minister Frank Tumwebaze, government spokesperson Ofwono Opondo and journalist Andrew Mwenda.
Mr Tumwebaze, the Information and Communication Technology minister, castigated the brutality but in attempt to deflect blame from the government, claimed it was Opposition supporters who brutalised Mr Kawooya.
Mr Opondo, the executive director of the Uganda Media Centre, referred to the armed men as goons.
Mr Mwenda, a senior journalist, through social networking site Twitter, said the “impunity is too much.”
In his October 23 letter to security chiefs, the President named acts that security forces should never commit and mentioned categories of people and how they should be handled during confrontation.
He asked them to use water cannons as the best way to control rioters instead of using the noisy tear-gas and rubber bullets because sometimes they can affect innocent people.
“All police forces in the world have shields and short sticks known as batons which they use to disperse hostile crowds… On rioters, you should use water cannons if they are available…” Mr Museveni stated.
“Therefore, the security personnel should be patient, restrained but also firm. If the criminal resists arrest, wrestle him down and handcuff him.”
However, the President added that rioters or other suspected criminals can be shot by security forces under particular circumstances.
“If, however, the rioters do not stop after the police use of shields and sticks and, if the water cannons that are very effective are not available, then, the police can use live bullets by first firing in the air; but, if the rioters persist, the police will fire directly at the rioters… Therefore, those who speak about this subject should know that rioters, under certain conditions, can be shot legally and can also be beaten legally and legitimately,” he warned.
The President said whereas there are circumstances where security forces can fire live bullets at rioters, once they or other suspects are arrested, they should “never be beaten by stick, fist or rifle butt.”
Mr Museveni said: “It is unfair, unnecessary and gives a bad image to the country.”
He reminded the security forces of his previous letter to them against torture on May 15, 2017.
In May last year, in the wake of increasing cases of torture by security agencies, the President wrote to his chiefs warning them against using brutality to extract confessions or evidence from suspects.
In that letter, he said with modern technology, torture is no longer necessary as a method of investigation.
However, many cases of torture by security forces have continued with the latest being that of Mr Kawooya who was tortured during day time on the street by soldiers.
Mr Museveni said in his letter that the military have been involved in issues of law and order because the police have been inefficient.
“The involvement of the SFC (Special Forces Command), Military Police and CMI (Chieftaincy of Military Intelligence) in handling law and order issues has been caused by the kawunkumi [weevils/wrong elements] that had invaded the Police. Otherwise, they should not have been involved and they were never involved.
I commend them because the main aims of the government were achieved: to protect the lives of Ugandans and their property.
The image of the country was somewhat affected. That, however, will be repaired,” the President said.
By Daily Monitor