Dear Major General Kayihura,

Human Rights Watch writes to express our concern that recent efforts to enhance police presence in northern Uganda could be undermined by instances of police misconduct, including police demands for money from crime victims in exchange for their services, and inadequate training for newly deployed special police constables. Human Rights Watch asks you to investigate and address allegations of police misconduct and take steps to enhance the professionalism of UPF personnel in northern Uganda as a key component of improved human rights protection.


Human Rights Watch welcomes efforts in recent months by the Uganda Police Force (UPF) to expand its presence in areas of northern Uganda affected by the longstanding conflict between the government of Uganda and the Lord’s Resistance Army (LRA). As you know, in the maintenance of law and order, and in the professional exercise of their powers, police officers play a critical role in safeguarding human rights, including the rights to life, liberty, and the security of the person.1 We write to express our concern, however, that recent efforts to enhance police presence in northern Uganda could be undermined by instances of police misconduct, including police demands for money from crime victims in exchange for their services, and inadequate training for newly deployed special police constables. Human Rights Watch asks you to investigate and address allegations of police misconduct and take steps to enhance the professionalism of UPF personnel in northern Uganda as a key component of improved human rights protection.

Our concerns—outlined below—are based on research conducted by Human Rights Watch in northern Uganda in January and February 2007. We visited 12 internally displaced person (IDP) camps in the Acholi subregion—Amuru, Gulu, Kitgum, and Pader districts—and interviewed 44 residents of IDP camps. We also conducted interviews with members of civil society and police officials at the subcounty, district, regional, and national level.

Background

Nearly 1.1 million IDPs remain in at least 105 established camps and 40 newer satellite sites across the Acholi subregion, the area of northern Uganda most affected by the LRA conflict.2 As you know, until recently, camps located at subcounty headquarters had at most a token police presence—often only local administration police who were not incorporated into the central UPF until 2006—while more remote camps lacked any police personnel. Some police posts were shut down as a result of the conflict. Even in camps with a police presence and at central UPF stations located in district administrative headquarters, other police resources, including vehicles, fuel, communications equipment, accommodation, and stationery have been scarce.3

Policing in northern Uganda has been in the hands of the national army—the Uganda Peoples’ Defence Force (UPDF)—and its auxiliary forces, which maintain posts in or near most camps and settlement sites. As a senior police official recently told Human Rights Watch, “there is no way police would have managed alone without the UPDF.”

A February 2007 report by the United Nations (UN) High Commissioner for Human Rights points out, however, that police reliance on the army in the absence of adequate resources leads to a “confusion of military and civilian policing functions,” which “limits the confidence of the public in the police to effectively maintain law and order, so that many individuals fail to seek police assistance.”4 In the absence of an effective civilian police presence, displaced persons are left vulnerable to abusive acts within the community, including domestic violence.

Moreover, members of government security forces have on occasion committed human rights violations against the civilian population within the camps.5 As Human Rights Watch has documented in the past, although the police have jurisdiction over criminal offenses committed by military personnel against civilians, the absence of the police coupled with the UPF’s reluctance to pursue cases against UPDF members contributes to a culture of impunity for these violations.6

Emergency Humanitarian Action Plan (HAP)

As you are aware, in the past year the government of Uganda initiated reforms to increase police presence in northern Uganda as a component of IDP protection through the Emergency Humanitarian Action Plan (HAP) with the support of donor country partners and UN agencies. Police officials interviewed by Human Rights Watch in February 2007 have reported progress on a number of specific targets in the HAP, including reopening police posts in every subcounty; redeploying central UPF personnel from other regions to northern Uganda to staff those police posts; deploying 2,000 newly recruited and trained special police constables (SPCs); and the provision of additional transportation and communications equipment. Police officials also reported to Human Rights Watch that further progress, including provision of adequate accommodation to support newly deployed personnel and recruitment of additional SPCs, is expected in the coming months.

As recognized by policing experts and in international law enforcement codes of conduct, effective policing that upholds the rule of law and protects the security of the person—including as against interference by state and private actors—is critical to the realization of human rights and democracy.7 Reforms directed at bolstering the civilian police force in northern Uganda are at once a component of human rights protection, including protection from abuses by government forces, and a vanguard of reconstruction in conflict-affected areas.

Concerns about Police Professionalism

Human Rights Watch found that many police constables in the areas we visited in northern Uganda demand money from crime victims in exchange for police services, including the arrest and transportation of suspects, and that some police constables fail to carry out their duties when victims are unable to afford the price set on police services. These practices violate the police disciplinary code of conduct, and contribute to a widespread belief among the IDP population that money is required to seek the assistance of the police.

Equally important, newly deployed SPCs have received as little as one months’ training, far less than the usual nine months’ training provided to UPF constables. Some police officials interviewed by Human Rights Watch acknowledged that this basic training is inadequate to equip these individuals to carry out police work. Human Rights Watch is also concerned that inadequately trained SPCs may be more likely to commit human rights abuses.

 Our concerns are discussed in more detail below.

Police Misconduct

Individuals interviewed by Human Rights Watch across the Acholi subregion reported that it was their view that police constables, including both central UPF constables and local administration police, charge crime victims to arrest and transport suspects. In several cases, this view was substantiated by personal experience, with police demands for money to arrest and transport suspects ranging from 5,000 Ugandan shillings (US$2.90) to 30,000 shillings ($17.24).

In Omot camp in Pader district in January 2007, for example, the guardian of 12 and 13-year-old sisters reported to the police that a man had lured them into his hut and had sex with them. Police demanded that the guardian pay 16,000 shillings ($9.20)—the cost for transportation of the suspect, a police constable, the girls, and the girls’ mother from Omot to Patongo. Police in Patongo then demanded that the guardian pay another 15,000 shillings ($8.62) to transport the suspect from Patongo to the district administrative headquarters in Pader town. It took the guardian two weeks to raise the money to transport the suspect from Patongo to Pader, during which time the suspect was held in Patongo.

Also in January 2007, police in Anaka in Amuru district simply refused to take action after a woman and her brother failed to raise the 30,000 shillings ($17.24) the police demanded to arrest and transport the woman’s allegedly abusive husband who lives in another camp.

Other individuals interviewed by Human Rights Watch also reported that many police charge fees for forms and other services, as well as in some instances solicit bribes.

In Patongo, for example, one man was asked by a police constable to provide “refreshments” during a postmortem examination in October 2006 on his murdered brother. The man offered the police constable 20,000 shillings ($11.49), which the man understood to be a bribe. The police constable at first hesitated, saying it was too little, but then accepted the money. The man told Human Rights Watch that he is not satisfied by the progress in the investigation of his brother’s murder and worries that the police are not pursuing the case because the police were not satisfied by the amount of the bribe.

Several individuals reported to Human Rights Watch their belief that the police could be bribed to arrest particular individuals or to release suspects in their custody. In Gulu town, when a man tried to check on the status of a defilement case (statutory rape) against his sixteen-year-old trainee, a police constable told him he would need between 800,000 and 1,000,000 shillings ($459.77 to $574.71) if he wanted to help. Later that day the same police constable told the man that he had no other choice but to take the boy to court after the man failed to bring the money.

The UPF disciplinary code of conduct prohibits as a corrupt practice “solicit[ing] or receiv[ing] any bribe,” and as neglect of duty, “fail[ing], when knowing where any offender is to be found, to report that or to make due exertions for making him or her amenable to justice.”8 Senior police officials interviewed by Human Rights Watch confirmed that asking complainants to pay the costs of transporting suspects contravenes police policy and subjects a constable to discipline under this code. The UN Code of Conduct for Law Enforcement Officials also prohibits “any act of corruption” and requires law enforcement officials “to rigorously oppose and combat all such acts.”9

As indicated above, police constables face significant resource constraints on their ability to carry out their duties. According to our interviews with police officials, there is only one police vehicle each in Gulu and Pader districts, two police vehicles in Kitgum district, and no police vehicles in Amuru district; fuel even for these vehicles was also reported to be lacking. Some police officials reported using their own resources to make up for shortfalls in the resources provided. But in at least some cases documented by Human Rights Watch, the sums of money requested by police appear to exceed the stated purpose of the fee, for example, the actual cost of transportation, suggesting that a lack of resources cannot fully explain or excuse all misconduct.

Special Police Constables

It is our information that the majority of SPCs recruited under the HAP received one months’ training before their deployment.10 As you know, UPF constables ordinarily receive at least nine months’ training.

Based on our research, it is apparent that SPCs deployed to subcounty posts in the Acholi subregion face enormous pressures. They must work in the same absence of adequate resources that constrains police throughout the country and in the context of mass population displacement and a threatened resumption of hostilities. SPCs are paid a salary of only 100,000 shillings ($58.07), about two-thirds that of a regular UPF constable, and some police officials in areas of northern Uganda with pre-existing SPC programs reported to Human Rights Watch delays of two to three months in meeting SPC payrolls.

In addition, SPCs, who were recruited locally, may help to foster good community relations, but the question exists whether they will be able to assert themselves against senior members of the community or soldiers of the UPDF and its auxiliary forces. According to our own research, and reports by the United States Department of State and the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights among others, government security forces continued to commit some abuses in 2006 against the civilian population.11

These pressures only heighten the ordinary importance of “ensur[ing] that all law enforcement officials . . . receive continuous and thorough professional training.”12 International law and standards of police conduct obligate the government of Uganda to provide training to law enforcement personnel to prevent human rights abuses, including torture, ill-treatment, and deprivation of the right to life.13 As stated above, some police officials interviewed by Human Rights Watch acknowledged that the training SPCs received is inadequate to fully equip them to carry out police work. But these police officials suggested that on-the-job training and supervision by UPF constables could make up for shortcomings in the initial training. It is questionable whether adequate supervision is possible in light of the limited UPF deployment in the North. On a visit to one subcounty police post in Gulu district in February 2007, Human Rights Watch found 29 newly deployed SPCs left to the supervision of just one UPF constable—redeployed to the post specifically for that purpose— and two local administration police.

Recent experience in northern Uganda with local defense units (LDUs)—local militias under army supervision— provides ample reason for concern that SPCs not only may be ill-equipped to protect human rights, but may also commit human rights abuses. Like SPCs, LDU soldiers are locally recruited and receive limited training. Some of the newly recruited SPCs are themselves former LDUs. LDUs have proven ineffective at times at providing civilian protection from LRA rebels,14 and, meanwhile, numerous observers have reported human rights abuses committed by LDU soldiers.15

Recommendations

In conjunction with implementation of reforms under the HAP and other programs, Human Rights Watch calls on you and the Ministry of Internal Affairs to take steps to improve the professionalism of UPF personnel as a key component of improved human rights protection in northern Uganda. We recommend the following measures:

  • Investigate and discipline constables found to be engaged in misconduct, including corrupt practices and neglect of duty, such as demanding money from crime victims in exchange for police services and refusing to carry out police duties where victims are unable to pay. Instruct officers-in-charge to carefully monitor the conduct of those constables under their command and to provide additional training in the police disciplinary code of conduct, particularly to local administration police recently incorporated into the UPF.
  • Provide additional training to all newly deployed SPCs in human rights, the police disciplinary code of conduct, and police work to ensure the professionalism of their work. Although the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR) has already provided human rights training to the newly deployed SPCs, we urge you to ensure that all police personnel, and especially all SPCs and local administration police, have the benefit of human rights training.
  • Increase the level of training provided to SPCs who will be recruited in the coming months for Kitgum district, and redeploy additional fully trained UPF constables throughout northern Uganda to provide increased supervision of SPCs.
  • Ensure that adequate resources—including accommodation and transportation—are provided to support all police personnel in their duties, and that SPCs receive their salaries in a timely manner.

Thank you for your attention to the matters raised in this letter, which has been sent to you in advance of its circulation to members of the JLOS donor group, OHCHR, and the public. We would very much welcome your response to the matters raised in the letter. If you are able to send a response on or before May 16, 2007, we will consider including your response in our public letter.

Sincerely,

Georgette Gagnon
Deputy Director, Africa Division
Human Rights Watch

Cc: Hon. Prof. Apolo Nsibambi, Prime Minister
Hon. Dr. Ruhakana Rugunda, Minister of Internal Affairs


1. José Ayala Lasso, “Foreword,” in UN High Commissioner for Human Rights/Centre for Human Rights, Human Rights and Law Enforcement: A Manual on Human Rights Training for the Police (Geneva: United Nations, 1997), pp. v-vi. 2. UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs, “Uganda 2007 Consolidated Appeals Process,” November 30, 2006, http://ochadms.unog.ch/quickplace/cap/main.nsf/h_Index/CAP_2007_Uganda/$FILE/CAP_2007_Uganda_VOL1_SCREEN.pdf?OpenElement (accessed April 18, 2007), pp. 51, 53, 58. 3. The UPF is one of ten institutions that comprise the Justice, Law and Order sector (JLOS) in Uganda. The 2006/2007 national budget projected an allocation of only 4.8 percent of the total budget to all ten JLOS institutions, while the security sector, which includes the Uganda Peoples’ Defence Force and the Chieftancy of Military Intelligence, was projected to receive 9.6 percent of the national budget. Ministry of Finance, Planning and Economic Development, Republic of Uganda, “Background to the Budget 2006/07 Fiscal Year: Enhancing Economic Growth and Household Incomes through Increased Production and Productivity,” June 2006, http://www.finance.go.ug/docs/BTTB_06%20Final.pdf (accessed April 19, 2007), p. 32. A study by the Commonwealth Human Rights Initiative (CHRI) states that “[t]he Government keeps the police starved of funds. As a result, the police are under-staffed and under-resourced.” CHRI, “The Police, the People, the Politics: Police Accountability in Uganda,” 2006, http://www.humanrightsinitiative.org/publications/police/uganda_country_... (accessed April 14, 2007), p. 19. 4. UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, “Report on the work of the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights in Uganda,” addendum to “Implementation of General Assembly Resolution 60/251 of 15 March 2006 Entitled ‘Human Rights Council,’ Report of the High Commissioner for Human Rights and follow-up to the World Conference on Human Rights,” A/HRC/4/49/Add.2, February 12, 2007, http://daccessdds.un.org/doc/UNDOC/GEN/G07/107/52/PDF/G0710752.pdf?OpenE... (accessed April 18, 2007), p. 10. 5. Human Rights Watch, Uprooted and Forgotten: Impunity and Human Rights Abuses in Northern Uganda, vol. 17, no. 12(A), September 2005, https://www.hrw.org/reports/2005/uganda0905/uganda0905.pdf, pp. 24-37. 6. Ibid., pp. 48-49. 7. See Independent Commission on Policing for Northern Ireland, “A New Beginning: Policing in Northern Ireland,” September 1999, http://www.belfast.org.uk/report/fullreport.pdf (accessed April 20, 2007), p. 18; UN Code of Conduct for Law Enforcement Officials, adopted December 17, 1979, G.A. res. 34/169, annex, 34 U.N. GAOR Supp. (No. 46) at 186, U.N. Doc. A/34/46 (1979), http://www1.umn.edu/humanrts/instree/i1ccleo.htm (accessed April 14, 2007), preamble; Basic Principles on the Use of Force and Firearms by Law Enforcement Officials, adopted by the Eighth United Nations Congress on the Prevention of Crime and the Treatment of Offenders, Havana, 27 August to 7 September 1990, U.N. Doc. A/CONF.144/28/Rev.1 at 112 (1990), http://www1.umn.edu/humanrts/instree/i2bpuff.htm (accessed April 14, 2007), preamble. 8. UPF Disciplinary Code of Conduct, schedule to The Police Act, 1994, as amended by The Police (Amendment) Act, 2006, §§ 19(e), 23(a). 9. UN Code of Conduct for Law Enforcement Officials, art. 7. 10. As indicated above, at the time of Human Rights Watch’s research mission, 2,000 SPCs had been recruited and deployed under the HAP to increase police presence. Of these, 1,400 were deployed to prevent cattle raiding in areas of the northern region that border Karamoja. Thirty SPCs were deployed to each subcounty police post in Gulu and Amuru districts, while three SPCs were deployed to subcounty police posts in Kitgum and Pader districts. Since that time, an additional 30 SPCs have been deployed to each subcounty post in Pader district, while an additional recruitment drive for SPCs for Kitgum district is still planned. 11. US State Department, Bureau of Democracy, Human Rights, and Labor, “Country Reports on Human Rights Practices – 2006: Uganda,” March 6, 2007, http://www.state.gov/g/drl/rls/hrrpt/2006/78763.htm (accessed April 14, 2007); UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, “Report on the work of the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights in Uganda,” pp. 8-9. 12. Basic Principles on the Use of Force and Firearms, para. 18. 13. See, e.g., UN Human Rights Committee, General Comment 20, Article 7 (Forty-fourth session, 1992), Compilation of General Comments and General Recommendations Adopted by Human Rights Treaty Bodies, U.N. Doc. HRI/GEN/1/Rev.6 (2003) at 151, http://www1.umn.edu/humanrts/gencomm/hrcom20.htm (accessed April 14, 2007), para. 10; Basic Principles on the Use of Force and Firearms, para. 20. 14. Human Rights Watch, Uprooted and Forgotten, p. 70. 15. See, e.g., UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, “Report on the work of the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights in Uganda,” p. 9; Refugee Law Project and Internal Displacement Monitoring Centre, “Only Peace Can Restore the Confidence of the Displaced,” October 2006 (2d ed.), http://www.refugeelawproject.org/resources/papers/others/RLP.IDMC2.pdf (accessed April 14, 2007), p. 23; UN Security Council, Report of the Secretary-General pursuant to resolutions 1653 (2006) and 1663 (2002), S/2006/478, June 29, 2006, http://daccessdds.un.org/doc/UNDOC/GEN/N06/415/40/PDF/N0641540.pdf?OpenE... (accessed April 14, 2007), para. 10.