Recently, we have witnessed an increasing level of insecurity in the country that has regrettably resulted into the loss of innocent lives and property. To counter this spate of unexplained insecurity, security forces have arrested and detained hundreds of suspects. To extract information from the suspects, security agents have allegedly used different forms of torture. Media have shown pictures of badly tortured suspects who claimed this form of ‘inhuman treatment” was meted out to them by security agents.
As Religious leaders, we have a spiritual and temporal mandate to speak for the voiceless, the weak, the marginalised, the oppressed and all those suffering from all manner of social injustice.
It is in this context that we wish to deplore and condemn the rising state of insecurity, and the equally shocking acts of torture prevailing in the country.
As religious leaders, we are alarmed by the high incidence of insecurity and organised crime in the country. Lately, the epicentre of insecurity was the greater Masaka, particularly in districts of Bukomansimbi and Lwengo. If it is not brought under control, it could spread to other parts of the country. It is reported that criminals would, in advance, issue out anonymous letters to their victims before viciously attacking them and, in some cases, killing them. It was in this fashion that more than a dozen of lives were lost at the hands of these evil doers.
According to the Constitution (1995), it is the duty of the State of Uganda to provide protection to its citizenry. While we appreciate the police force and sister security agencies for endeavouring to play their constitutional role, we feel there is complacency in the way they discharge their duties. The arrest of the suspects is often a belated and reactive response. There is no doubt that the attacks – and subsequent loss of lives- could have been pre-empted by the security apparatus (Police, CMI, ISO, Flying squad etc) given the numerical strength and resources at their disposal to fight crime.
We, therefore, call upon all the security agencies tasked with fighting crime to increase cooperation and information sharing between and among them and the public.
The Prevention and Prohibition of Torture Act, 2012 and Article 24 of the Constitution (1995) are unequivocal that “no person shall be subjected to any form of torture or cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment”.
Whereas, we support the efforts of the security agencies to arrest suspects in fighting criminal activities in the country, it should not be interpreted that security agencies are unconditionally licenced to indulge in acts of torture against the arrested suspects. This is a violation of the aforementioned Act and the Supreme Law of the land.
We assert that the police and other security agencies involved in the fight against crime in the country, are sufficiently well trained to extract information from suspects without unnecessarily violating their human rights by inflicting bodily harm.
Let the case of Geoffrey Byamukama, the Mayor of Kamwenge, and other suspects who have appeared in court, and the media with evident torture marks be the last victims of torture in Uganda
As religious leaders, we call on government to ensure that the Torture Act does not become a paper tiger; it should be implemented to the letter without fear or favour. The law stipulates the nature of punishment to a person (not institution) convicted of an act of torture. We, therefore, call for a speedy prosecution of the individual Police officers responsible for the acts of torture.
At the same time, we wish to call upon Ugandans to be vigilant, security-conscious cooperate with security agencies to fight insecurity in the country. Government should also consider reviving and strengthening the village/local councils, which in the past used to provide useful intelligence to the security agencies.
Finally, we appeal to fellow religious leaders to be law abiding, preach peace and love in their congregations, and avoid abetting insecurity. We also appeal to the communities, as well as the religious leaders to avoid apportioning blame to one religion or the other as the one instigating insecurity.
For God and My Country!
His Eminence, Sheikh Shaban Ramadhan Mubaje
GRAND MUFTI OF UGANDA
CHAIRPERSON, COUNCIL OF PRESIDENTS
FOR AND ON BEHALF OF THE INTER-RELIGIOUS COUNCIL OF UGANDA
Issued: 16 May 2017