The Fight Against Criminals Mustn’t Criminalise Living [editorial]

When tragedy claims a prominent Ugandan, it is not unusual for us to desperately look for answers to why it happened, and for public officials to reactively devise solutions.

Many Ugandans are still appalled at last Monday’s heart-wrenching murder of renowned prosecutor Joan Namazzi Kagezi, gunned down right before her children. We join her family, friends and the rest of Uganda to mourn a woman acclaimed as an accomplished professional.

During Thursday’s requiem service at St Luke’s Church in Ntinda, police chief Kale Kayihura argued that the constitutional requirement to produce suspects in court in 48 hours was one of the reasons criminals like those who killed Kagezi thrived.

Gen Kayihura reasoned that such a requirement hampers police work because it is too difficult to gather requisite evidence in 48 hours so as to be able to take someone to court.

With all due respect, we think the police boss needs to find other explanations for failure to resolve murders. As chief justice Bart Katureebe argued in church, the urgent need to fight murderers and terrorists should not compromise the rule of law, which is underpinned by respect for human rights.

Fighting criminals should not lead us into measures that amount to giving security organs an open license to criminalise just about anything and get away with it.

The tenor of Article 23 of the Constitution is the protection of the personal liberty of Ugandans, and the requirement to charge suspects within 48 hours reflects that spirit. If in 48 hours, the police cannot find a scintilla of evidence to charge a suspect in court, it is most likely that they have unjustifiably deprived a Ugandan of hisher liberty.

Gen Kayihura also knows that inadequate evidence has never stopped a suspect being charged. Suspects, for instance in the murder of Muslim clerics and Music entrepreneur Eria Ssebunya (Kasiwukira) have been on remand for months because police is still investigating.

It would be a dishonour to Joan Kagezi if her death is used to give police powers to lock away Ugandans for months without justification.

Source : The Observer

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