Human Rights or Torture - Traffic sign with two options - prohibition of inhuman degrading and treatment vs using brutal and cruel method during interrogation, questioning as method of prevention

A Facebook friend, posted a video recording last week of a very dangerous and chaotic scene where people wearing yellow tops, presumably Kampala Capital City Authority (KKCA) officers, together with other armed people in police uniforms, and others in plain clothes, very roughly manhandle a woman with a baby strapped to her body.

The captors drag the petite woman and her baby (we presume) on a concrete surface, towards a pick-up truck. At the same time, a man in a white and black checked shirt grabs a screaming little girl, lifts her by the arm like a chicken or small animal, and follows in the direction of the chaos.

The woman and baby are dragged past a black/blue police vehicle. A policewoman, clutching a long semi-automatic weapon, assists with the macabre process. Five other police officers, some with helmets, are present. They clear the path but make no obvious contact with the captives.

Mother and baby, screaming and flailing, are lifted off the pavement and thrown onto the cargo bed like a sack of sorghum. There is an audible thud as the mother/baby couplet land.

Two women, with red identity numbers, 167 and 333 respectively, printed on their yellow T-shirts, are among the people who have just thrown this mother and child onto the truck.

The woman promptly gets up, perhaps in an attempt to jump off the truck. Her protective maternal reflexes undiminished, she senses her baby’s head dangerously close to the side of the cargo bed. She places her left hand on the baby’s head as she scrambles to her feet.

The baby, now completely upside down, still strapped to the mother’s side, is crying and thrusting her legs in the air. It is only by God’s grace that the baby does not drop headfirst onto the hard-metal floor of the cargo bed.

The woman with ID No. 333 pushes the mother back. Hands appear from the other side of the truck and grab the woman’s torn skirt, briefly exposing her undergarment. Her blouse has been pulled up, exposing her back.

A man in plainclothes climbs onto the truck, spreads his legs and stands over the woman and her baby. His left leg traps the baby against the mother as he turns her to the right, pushes her down and then sits on the ledge of the truck. He pulls the woman’s arms above her head, paying no attention to the dangling baby.

Amidst the woman’s cries of “nta!” (let go), the man with the checked shirt throws the little girl onto the cargo bed. She remains standing for a few seconds, very frightened and crying, before a man’s hands push her down to the floor. The man jumps onto the truck and grabs the toddler’s right arm.

Meanwhile, the man restraining the woman applies very firm finger and thumb pressure to the back of her neck (“The Death Touch”), probably aiming to knock her out by compressing her carotid arteries (which take blood to the brain.) The trio, now somewhat subdued, are driven off, presumably under arrest for some unknown infraction. The entire thing is over in less than two minutes.

Throughout the whole fracas, there is a large crowd of spectators. Many are very concerned about the children’s safety, but the captors ignore their appeals for gentleness.

My immediate reaction after watching the episode was: Why? My people, why? What has happened to us, reduced to savagery in the name of enforcing “the law?” Why are these things happening under the watch of two women who are mothers, Beti Namisango Kamya, the Minister for Kampala, and Jennifer Musisi, executive director of KCCA?

The woman’s “crime” and the state of her mental health are immaterial to the manner of her arrest. It is extreme cruelty to the woman, to the children, to the spectators and to humanity.

It reveals a reckless disregard for the dignity of other people’s lives. This woman and her children are treated like non-humans. They are denied rights that their captors and the captors’ bosses expect for themselves and their children.

The violent arrest endangers the lives of all three, with real risks of physical injury and even death to the children. An almost certain consequence is post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) which may affect all, including the little baby. There is extensive paediatric and child psychiatry literature that affirms the common sense knowledge that the violence that children experience or witness has intense consequences on their health and development. It is very likely to cause physical, behavioral and lasting psychological health problems.

I appeal to Beti and Jennifer to place human rights and dignity for all above everything they do. It does not matter what a person’s social, economic or mental health status is. We all must make a choice: Are willing to stand up for human rights or to abet human torture through our silence?

We are all children of God, with human rights enshrined in the Uganda Constitution, the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child. These, of course, were already wonderfully summarized by Jesus Christ, as reported in Luke 6:31 – “Do to others as you would have them do to you.”

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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