HRW: probe unarmed protester deaths

Kampala – Human Rights Watch has called on the Ugandan government to investigate the killing of unarmed protesters by security forces during recent marches against rising living costs, a statement said on Monday.

The New York-based rights group said at least nine civilians, including a two-year-old girl, have been shot dead by security personnel across the country in three days of disturbances since April 11.

“Uganda’s security forces met the recent protests with live fire that killed peaceful demonstrators and even bystanders,” Maria Burnett, senior African researcher at Human Rights Watch, said in the statement.

Three people in Kampala died of gunshot wounds to the back as they tried to flee the violence, while two were killed as they tried to hide from live bullets and one was shot dead as he walked down a road, HRW said.

According to local police well over 100 people have been injured and more than 600 arrested since the unrest started on April 11, the report says.

Although protesters have thrown stones at security personnel and set debris alight, there was no evidence that they had firearms, Human Rights Watch said.

There has been widespread condemnation of the Ugandan police and military since they launched a violent crackdown on attempts by opposition leaders to walk to work in protest at spiralling food and fuel prices last month.

Following the brutal arrest of opposition leader Kizza Besigye on April 28, Ugandan religious leaders demanded the resignation of the Minister of Internal Affairs and Inspector General of Police.

UN human rights chief Navi Pillay has called the arrest of Besigye “shocking” and urged Ugandan police and military to stop using “excessive force.”

Besigye is currently in Nairobi, where he has been receiving treatment for injuries sustained during his arrest, but is expected back in Uganda this week amid pledges from opposition leaders that demonstrations will continue.

Human Rights Watch also called on international donors, including Britain and Ireland, to stop any support and training for the Ugandan police and military until investigations into the killings are carried out.

Judith Nabakooba, spokeswoman for the Ugandan police force, said that police had already launched routine investigations into the killings.

“Once an issue like this happens investigations are begun,” she said, without giving details of any of the investigations.

“It is very bad for anyone to speculate on this,” Nabakooba said. – Sapa-AFP

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