Kaabong |8 December: The 49th session of the Karamoja Regional Protection Meeting (KRPM) took place on 8 December 2022 in Kaabong District to discuss recent human rights issues and concerns in the Karamoja sub region. A total of 40 (33 men and seven women) participants representing the Uganda Human Rights Commission (UHRC), the Uganda People’s Defence Force (UPDF), Uganda Police Force (UPF), Judiciary, Directorate of Public Prosecution, district local government leadership, district officers, civil society organizations, UN agencies (UNICEF and UNFPA).
In her remarks, the OHCHR Deputy Country Representative, Grace Pelly highlighted the relevance of the KRPM as a platform to promote the culture of accountability for better protection of human rights. She also urged participating institutions of the KRPM to take latest recommendations of the UN Committee against Torture seriously and enhance their efforts to prevent the practice of torture and ill-treatment, investigate allegations of such violations and prosecute those responsible, particularly in relation to the latest disarmament operations.
The District Chairperson of Kaabong district, Gino Meri also expressed his concerns over the heavy handedness of the security forces during cordon and search operations, resulting in unnecessary mass arrests and detention of civilians on unverified charges including cattle rustling and possession of illegal firearms or ammunition.
OHCHR and UHRC presented a list of allegations of human rights violations committed by members of the security forces involved in the forceful disarmament operations in the region. The alleged violations included arbitrary and prolonged arrest and detention, systematic use of torture and ill-treatment at military barracks, unnecessary and disproportionate use of force; gender-based violence and lack of compliance with fair trial standards in court-martial proceedings. The Office also raised concerns over the delayed process of sanctioning criminal behaviours due to absence of Resident State Attorneys in certain districts and remaining gaps of some prison facilities which undermine the rights of prisoners.
The discussion led to several recommendations including 1) the need for proceedings before court-martial to be more transparent and compliant with fair trial standards; 2) the need for District Chain-Committee to be revitalized to effectively address the issues related to access to justice at the district level; 3) the need to prioritize prompt and impartial investigations into alleged human rights violations committed by law enforcement institutions.
The KRPM is a regional platform enabling protection actors to discuss and assess human rights issues and concerns in the Karamoja sub-region. The multi-stakeholders dialogue has contributed to enhance the capacity of the UN and responsible Government institutions in the realization of access to justice and redress.