The Restoring Law and Order in Karamoja (RELOKA) programme has led to improvements in justice, law and order in the Karamoja region. The programme has achieved this through an increased number of police officers and the re-opening of police outposts in every sub-county. Furthermore, RELOKA is supporting community sensitization on the Penal Code and the reporting of crimes and human rights violations. However, human rights violations still persist. While the disarmament programme, re-launched in May 2006, was greatly contributing to a better security environment in Karamoja, it has also resulted in human rights violations Therefore, the cordon-and-search guidelines issued by UPDF were a very welcomed measure for reducing this record. But these regulations were not reinforced and their application is relatively low.
As a state actor, the UPDF is mandated to respect and protect human rights by the Constitution. Therefore the UN Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR) and Uganda Human Rights Commission implemented training expected to enable the UPDF to conduct disarmament operations in accordance with human rights standards on the use of force, legal detentions, protection of life, integrity and property of the people.
Highlighting the challenges that the army faces, a UPDF trainee said, “OHCHR has sensitized us not to shoot directly at armed Karimojong, but instead shoot in the air to scare them away. Unfortunately, the armed Karimojong shoot us directly, killing or injuring us.” This type of incidents indeed requires discussing further adequate measures to confront armed attacks in line with legal and human rights norms.
The UPDF soldiers trained in human rights standards have expressed appreciation for the work of OHCHR and UHRC and even gone ahead to report cases of human rights violations to the police. Also, UPDF trainees have shown eagerness to learn more on human rights.
Another matter that OHCHR and UHRC is addressing jointly to the UPDF is the unlawful trial of civilians by court martial.
TheSupreme Court of Uganda on 20 January 2009ruled that the trial of civilians by the General Court Martial was unconstitutional, yet the UPDF continues with this practice.
OHCHR has continuously lobbied for the release of those who were arrested arbitrarily , particularlythe terminally ill, the elderly, women and children. In July 2009, OHCHR’s intervention led to the release of more than 60 detainees in the 405 Brigade based in Kotido. In August the same year, OHCHR intervention in 405 Brigade led to release of over 200 community members arrested from Watakau ward in Nakapelimoru Sub-County, and constant lobbying by UNICEF, OHCHR and district authorities led to the release of over 20 children arrested and detained between August and September 2010.
In April 2008, OHCHR and the probation office in Kotido lobbied for release of 4 juveniles detained together with adults in Kotido Government prison. The intervention of OHCHR in Kumet and Lolelia army barracks in Kaabong district in Sptember 2010 led to release of community members arrested from Lokerui parish and detained in the two barracks.
Another issue of concern to OHCHR is that many suspects resulting from the cordon-and- search operations are left at the prisons and police cells without a charge sheet, leading to the police detaining the suspects beyond the mandatory 48 hours before being committed to court for trial.
The judiciary in Karamoja is lacking in capacity. The entire region has one Resident State Attorney, one Chief Magistrate, one Grade I Magistrate, and three Grade II Magistrates. This has contributed to a backlog of cases, some of which are only tried by the High Court.
Law enforcement operations should be implemented by Police, who was last year deployed in all sub-counties in Karamoja. OHCHR welcomes the Restoring Law and Order in Karamoja (RELOKA) Programme which is strengthening the f Police at the sub-county level. , but reiterates that while UPDF and LDUs still conduct law enforcement, operations in Karamoja these operations should observe all human rights standards established for law enforcement operations and set out in the UPDF cordon and search guidelines. OHCHR is collaborating with UPDF to meet this objective through trainings, but also continuous monitoring of incidents which will be brought up with authorities of UPDF and the Uganda Police Force for further preventing and investigating into human rights violations.