Police used excessive force to disperse Civic United Front (CUF) officials and supporters early this year, according to the Commission for Human Rights and Good Governance (CHRAGG).
CHRAGG says in a probe report released yesterday that police also humiliated CUF leaders, including stripping some women, as they sought to stop a demonstration on January 27.
It further notes that police used excessive and unnecessary force when dispersing the party’s supporters who were holding a march in Temeke District to commemorate the 14th anniversary of the killing in 2001 of 21 CUF members in Zanzibar during a post-election protest.
CUF national chairman Ibrahim Lipumba was roughed up and thrown into the back of a police vehicle during the January fracas. He was arrested along with 43 party members and supporters, who were later arraigned and charged with incitement and illegal assembly. The case is still pending.
Police were widely condemned by rights activists and opposition MPs, who called for a review of policing laws to tame brutality and injustice meted out to innocent people.
Yesterday, CHRAGG chairman Bahame Nyanduga told reporters that investigations conducted by the commission had established that police violated the basic principles of good governance when heavily armed officers descended on CUF officials and supporters. CUF also came in for criticism for deploying members of its security wing, the Blue Guard, during the incident.
The opposition party welcomed the findings, with its deputy director of organisation and elections, Mr Shaweji Mketo, saying the report had vindicated them and highlighted “blatant and persistent violation of the law” by police.
“We are happy that the commission has not been biased in its findings. We are now waiting to see whether the relevant authorities will take action against the culprits and how they will implement recommendations put forward by the commission,” he said.
Mr Mketo said the findings had put to shame Home Affairs minister Mathias Chikawe and others who defended police in Parliament.
During a heated debate in Parliament, Mr Chikawe said Prof Lipumba and dozens of CUF supporters were arrested for defying a lawful police order requiring them to disperse after their march and rally were banned.
In its report, the commission came up with a number of recommendations, which, it says, should be worked on immediately to avoid future violation of human rights and disregard for good governance during similar events.
In one of the recommendations, the commission calls on the police to respect human rights and the sanctity of human life in their daily operations. The Police Force has also been advised to conduct regular retraining of its officers on crowd control and how to handle gatherings, especially those organised by political parties.
“Police should ensure they abide by their code of conduct and procedures and see to it that they do not interfere with journalists’ work,” Mr Nyanduga said.
The commission has also urged CUF to improve its relations with the police and avoid unnecessary misunderstandings and frictions between them. “They CUF must abide by the law and should disband their security wing,” Mr Nyanduga added.
He said CHRAGG would organise and conduct training and seminars for various stakeholders, including political parties, police and the National Electoral Commission, that would enable them to respect human rights and good governance in the course of carrying out their duties.
SOURCE: The Citizen