A prominent Ugandan legal scholar and former Supreme Court judge has condemned the Uganda police for using excessive force on peaceful demonstrators.
Dr George Kanyeihamba, accusing the police of brutality, is calling for the investigation and prosecution of individuals involved in the crackdown.
Police are reportedly using brutal force to disperse demonstrators in an effort to prevent an escalation of opposition led protest across the east Africa country.
Protests against increasing fuel and other commodities prices started on April 4 with police not allowing protestors to enter the city center. Called ‘walk-to-work’, the demonstration has been labeled ‘unlawful’ by the Uganda government.
Opposition leaders and their supporters have been walking to work on Mondays and Thursdays in protest at the price rises.
Police usually arrest opposition politicians, who are charged in court and released on bail. But on Monday this week, Democratic Party President Norbert Moa refused bail and was transferred to jail.
Main opposition leader, Kizza Besigye of the Forum for Democratic Change (FDC), who was shot in the hand a week ago, joined Mao on Thursday after his bail application was referred by court for hearing next week. Both men will now spend Easter behind bars.
“It’s absolutely out of proportion,” said the former judge, in reference to the police’s reaction to the protests. “Some politicians have been arrested as they come out of their homes, suspected to be going to join the walk to work campaign.”
He said what the police are doing is absolutely illegal and unconstitutional. “It is really police brutality in my opinion,” he said.
Kanyeihamba said the police who are involved ought to be investigated with a view of possible prosecution.
Citing the Nuremberg trials, Kanyeihamba said “There is no such thing as acting on orders. You are either within the law or you are not. You cannot plead superior orders to break the law.”
[The Nuremberg Trials were a series of military tribunals, held by the main victorious Allied forces of World War II, most notable for the prosecution of prominent members of the political, military, and economic leadership of the defeated Nazi Germany.]
He said civil society organization should initiate prosecutions of the police officers who broke the provisions of the constitution and the laws of Uganda if the Director of Public Prosecutions can’t bring charges.
Kanyeihamba described the mood in the country as one of “shock, amazement, and surprise at what the police are doing. “There is a lot of conversation today and people are saying – has Uganda really come to that stage; how can we be governed by illegalities committed by those who are entrusted with the responsibility to govern.”
In the town of Masaka, 80 miles west of Kampala, a 2-year-old was killed after being shot in the chest and head when the police opened fire with live ammunition near a crowd of unarmed protesters, according to Ugandan news reports.