Human Rights Watch Demands Independent Probe Of Kasese Massacre
Human Rights Watch has demanded an ‘impartial fact-finding mission with international expertise’ inquiry into last years massacre of civilians in Kasese district.
The government announced then that the Police and Army were quelling an armed insurrection led by militants allied to the Bakonjo King Wesley Mumbere but Human Rights Watch in a statement earlier today insisted: “without independent investigations, (government) version of events raises more questions than answers, particularly regarding the actual death toll and why there was no effort to remove unarmed people and children from the compound.”
The Government spokesman Ofwono Opondo says the government will issue its response to the HRW report today afternoon. Red Pepper Online will publish the government response when it comes through.
In it’s stinging critic, HRW said the Kasese massacre should not be swept under the carpet:
“The assault on the palace in Kasese, which killed more people than any single event since the height of the war in Northern Uganda over a decade ago, should not be swept under the carpet,” said Maria Burnett, associate Africa director at Human Rights Watch. “People in Kasese are still looking for their family members, including children, and they deserve answers and justice for these gruesome killings.”
In a telephone interview on February 24, 2017, Uganda’s military spokesman, Brig. Richard Karemire, told Human Rights Watch that there has been no investigation into the military’s conduct and that none is planned. The government is under an obligation to investigate any operation where there is such loss of life and should do so promptly. But given limited prospects for a credible follow up by domestic authorities, an independent, impartial investigation, with international expertise, should be urgently conducted, Human Rights Watch said.
HRW disputed the number of victims announced by the government saying the authorities under reported the total number of those killed and or injured in the operation:
‘Police spokespeople reported the death toll over the two days as 87, including 16 police. Human Rights Watch found the actual number to be much higher – at least 55 people, including at least 14 police, killed on November 26, and more than 100, including at least 15 children, during the attack on the palace compound on November 27.
HRW accused the government of selective prosecution by not charging any members of the armed forces with crimes against un armed civilians and children:
‘The government has arrested and charged more than 180 people, including the cultural institution’s king, known as the Omusinga, with murder, treason, and terrorism, among other charges. None of the 180 are members of the police or military and no one has been charged for the killing of the civilians, including children.”
Human Rights Watch also accuse the armed forces of executing volunteer royal guards unarmed and carry agricultural tools like sticks and pangas and who ‘would not constitute an armed force or group under international humanitarian law.’
‘ The violence began on the morning of November 26 in Kasese, where there has been longstanding tension between a local cultural kingdom and the central government. Soldiers, under the command of then-Brig.Peter Elwelu, forced their way into the kingdom’s administration offices in Kasese town. The soldiers killed eight members of the volunteer royal guards, who traditionally safeguard cultural sites. Many often carry agricultural tools, such as machetes, but are not formally armed by the kingdom or the government, and would not constitute an armed force or group under international humanitarian law.
Human Rights Watch demands that justice should be done and that families of the killed policemen and women should receive compensation.