7 Youth Activists Arrested, Detained For Holding Press Conference
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The arrest of youth activists in Kampala today and the consequent manner of the police in handling this case potent a lack of respect for the freedom of association and peaceful assembly in the run up to the 2016 general elections.
The youth activists, who had gathered in the city today, had just concluded a press conference/briefing when they were arrested by the police on allegations of holding an unlawful assembly.
They were interrogated for several hours at the Jinja Road Police Station. The youths through their lawyers applied to be released on a police bond but their application was denied despite bond being a constitutional right.
The police instead whisked the youths to City Hall Court; a court outside of the territorial jurisdiction of the area in which the crime was allegedly committed. This was done on Friday at 4.30pm, when the courts are closing down for the weekend.
While at the court, they were locked up for an hour in a court holding cell without being charged of any offence.
Later, they were removed from the cell, ordered to seat at the back of a police patrol pickup and driven around town for three hours at a break-neck speed while their hands were handcuffed.
They were driven through the suburbs of Nakasero, Wandegeya, Kalerwe, Kasangati and eventually delivered and locked-up at Naggalama Police Station in Mukono district.
Naggalama Police Station is about 8 miles outside of Kampala and is located outside of the territorial jurisdiction within which the alleged crime was committed. This has impeded access to the suspects by their relatives and friends.
In the context of free and fair elections, the police’s duty is to facilitate the free exercise of all parties involved.
A press conference is a legitimate activity in a democratic country.
It is not the role of the police under the law to hinder the enjoyment of freedoms of one group while facilitating the freedom of the other. The police must be neutral, non-partisan and seek to keep law and order.