Ongoing Abductions, Arbitrary Arrests Alarm Appointments Committee

Parliament’s Appointments Committee has tasked the newly appointed Uganda Human Rights Commission -UHRC members to ensure that human rights abusers, especially security officers are held accountable.

The committee chaired by Deputy Speaker Thomas Tayebwa on Monday convened to vet the three new Commissioners appointed by President Yoweri Museveni. These are the former Kassanda South MP, Simeo Nsubuga, former Burahya MP, Col. Steven Basaliza and the former Commissioner for Physical Education and Sports in the Ministry of Education, Omara Apita.

Security agencies have been consistently ranked highly as abusers of human rights. A report by Human Rights Watch issued in March said that security agencies were responsible for different cases of enforced disappearances, torture, and detention without trial, among others.

Col. Retired Steven Basaliza, who formerly severed on the Human Rights Commission, says that the Appointments committee tasked them to intensify their work to ensure that errant security officers are held responsible.

“Every member of the committee who asked questions wanted to know what am I supposed to do when I go back especially on issues of human rights in the country, in my view, they rated me as somebody who has the experience,” said Col. Basaliza shortly after stepping out of the vetting committee. Basaliza pledged to go for individual security officers who abuse the human rights of others.

He described the violation of human rights by some security officers as a disappointment. Basaliza said that individual security officers who abuse human rights should be arrested and tried in courts of law and also demoted.

Simeo Nsubuga, a former police officer, also told journalists that the committee was concerned about whether he would be able to take action against security officers who abuse human rights once he is approved as a Commissioner.

“They quoted a number of annual reports by the Commission where the police is mentioned as a leading agency in violating the rights of Ugandans,”. But, I have assured them that considering my experience and qualifications, if they approve my appointment I will be at the forefront in protecting, defending and observing the rights of Ugandans.”

Nsubuga said that working together with other commissioners, they will regularly submit reports to parliament on different actions taken against the abuse of human rights.

Speaking about the new wave of enforced disappearances, Nsubuga said that these are a violation of human rights and against the stipulated guidelines for carrying out an arrest.

Apita Omara also said that the issue of abductions was prominently raised by the Appointments committee and that he is to ensure that the laws of Uganda are followed. He says that people carrying out arrests should be clearly identified and the places of detention known to relatives of the victims. Omara retired from the Ministry of Education in 2020, after clocking 60 years, which is the official retirement age for public servants in the country.

Established under the Constitution, the Uganda Human Rights Commission is mandated with investigating complaints made against violations of any human right, visiting jails, prisons and places of detention to assess conditions of inmates, recommending to parliament measures to promote human rights, monitoring the government’s compliance with international treaties and conventions obligations on human rights, among others. The UHRC Act provides for 7 positions for Commissioners.

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