Uganda Responds to UN Human Rights Committee on Trying Civilians in Military Court
Uganda has told the United Nations Human Rights Committee that possession of arms, ammunition or equipment is the monopoly of the Defence Forces, and therefore any person found in possession of arms illegally, is tried in the military Court.
This is contained in Uganda’s report responding to issues raised in the country’s second periodic report of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR) – a multilateral treaty that commits nations to respect the civil and political rights of individuals, including the right to life, freedom of religion, freedom of speech, freedom of assembly, electoral rights and rights to due process and a fair trial.
Uganda is a signatory to the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights which it ratified on June 21, 1995.
As a State Party, Uganda is required under Article 40 to provide reports on measures taken to give effect to the rights recognized in the ICCPR and on the progress made on the enjoyment of those rights.
In 2020 Uganda presented her second Periodic Report which the UN Human Rights Committee considered in its 135th Session and Uganda was requested to respond to the issues raised and provide an update on additional developments regarding the domestication of the Covenant by 31st January, 2023.
Among the issues raised is how the use of military courts to try civilians is compatible with the provisions of the Covenant.
Addressing reporters about Uganda’s response to issues raised, the Deputy Attorney General, Jackson Kafuuzi said arms are a monopoly of defense forces, and therefore any person found in possession of arms illegally, is tried in the military Court.
“Section 119(1) (h) of the UPDF Act provides for persons who are subject to military law including every person found in unlawful possession of arms, ammunition or equipment ordinarily being the monopoly of the Defence Forces or other classified stores,” Kafuuzi told reporters at the Uganda Media Centre on Monday.
It is worth noting that a group of the opposition National Unity Platform (NUP) party supporters have been tried in the Uganda People’s Defense Forces (UPDF) General Court Martial in Makindye.
They faced charges of being in unlawful possession of ammunition, contrary to Section 3 (1) and (2) of the Firearms Act.
The group was arrested in Kalangala District while on a campaign trail of then presidential candidate Robert Kyagulanyi, aka Bobi Wine.
Prosecution alleged that between November 2020 and May 12, 2021, in diverse areas of Jinja, Mbale, Kireka, Nakulabye, Kawempe, Nateete and Kampala Central, the accused were in possession of 13 pieces of explosive devices, a monopoly of the Defence Forces.
The accused would later be granted bail in May 2022.
Meanwhile, Uganda was also asked to comment on the continuing reports of excessive use of force by security agencies which has led to death in some instances and give info on the number of complaints, investigations, security personnel prosecuted and sentenced in the last 5 years.
In response, Uganda said, “the law provides for the use of reasonable force and the circumstances are provided for under the Criminal Procedure Code Act Cap. 116, the Police Act, Cap. 303, the Uganda Prisons Act, the Police Human Rights Policy and Standard Operating Procedures (SOPs) on the Use of Force and Firearms. The Police leadership has condemned the use of excessive force and directed the Force’s Human Rights and Legal Directorate to ensure that every police officer accused of using excessive force towards civilians is charged in civil or criminal courts if the available evidence establishes such facts.”
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