In its latest report, the Uganda Human Rights Commission (UHRC) has confirmed the rising scale of torture in the country where the victims have been subjected to electric shocks, rape, and other forms of brutality in varying severity.
In its 19th report about the status of human rights in Uganda released yesterday, UHRC noted that torture dominated the list of human rights violations since the statutory body’s inception which was established under the 1995 Constitution.
The report shows the state of torture in Uganda has reached a scale of epidemic proportions where the victims under government detention suffered brutality of varying severity which, in some cases, resulted in death.
It cites incidents of individuals being subjected to physical and psychological suffering from beatings, plucking out of fingernails, electric shocks, mock executions, pepper sprays, rape, denial of food, and the shame of being stripped naked or paraded in public, among others.
“Despite the existence of a specific law criminalising torture, the Prohibition and Prevention of Torture Act (PPTA) 2012, the violations of freedom from torture or cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment remain rampant in the country drawing from UHRC statistics from the past five years,” UHRC noted in the 243-page report.
The findings in the UHRC report are consistent with the recent reports and testimonies of torture against security agencies particularly the police and army. The country was recently treated to grisly images of suspects in the investigation of slain former police spokesperson, Andrew Felix Kaweesi arriving at Nakawa Chief Magistrate’s Court, some limping and others displaying scars and healing wounds allegedly inflicted on them while in police or military custody.
Shortly after the social media was awash with images of Kamwenge Town Council Mayor Geoffrey Byamukama nursing deep deteriorating wounds on his knees and ankles at Nakasero Hospital, Kampala where he had been admitted for more than a month.
More people had earlier come out and continue to accuse police officers and other auxiliary security operatives of torture.
According to the UHRC report, police and its auxiliary units topped the number of complaints registered against it (620 cases) in regard to torture.
The report which makes several recommendations cited a number of challenges in addressing torture including ineffective implementation of the law against torture, impunity and failure to punish the perpetrators; lack of alternative investigative tools and techniques; flexible recruitment and poor training of law enforcement agents; delayed payment of compensation the UHRC tribunal awards to victims of torture and lack of a government specialised treatment and rehabilitation centre for the survivors.
The report asked security agencies, the Directorate of Public Prosecutions (DPP) and the Judiciary to prioritise the implementation of the Prohibition and Prevention of Torture Act, 2012.
The UHRC made other recommendations which include punishment of the culpable officers, ratifying international conventions against torture, payment of tribunal compensation awards, equipping police with modern investigative mechanisms including setting up a specialised unit to investigate the crime of torture.
The Uganda Prisons Service was also indicted for forcing sick, older and female prisoners with babies to work on farms for many hours and without adequate remuneration, shelter, waste disposal facilities, protective gear or food.
The incidents of the Kasese bloodletting last November which left more than 100 people dead was conspicuously absent from the UHRC report.
Some of the people at the launch of the report including Mr Donald Rukare who discussed it, wondered why such an incident was left out of the investigations.However, acting UHRC chairperson Dr Katebalirwe Amooti explained that they had deliberately declined to give their views on the Kasese incident because the matter is ongoing in court and they need to brief President Museveni about their findings before they made them public.
“It is our constitutional obligation to discuss and suggest solutions about what happened in Kasese and at the earliest opportunity, we shall do so,” Dr Katebalirwe said.
He further explained that the Commission had investigated the events prior to the November 2016 violence in Kasese but had shelved the report pending the meeting with Mr Museveni who had earlier tasked UHRC to investigate the matter.
About the report
The report is based on complaints received, findings upon inspection of places of detention and health centres, human rights education and outreach programmes carried out by UHRC, monitoring of the national election process, monitoring of several human rights situations including child marriages, alcohol and illicit drug abuse by youth and children, the government’s Cordon and Search disarmament exercise in Karamoja.
Other considerations are: strikes in universities, plight of unaccompanied refugee minors and the state of maternal and reproductive health service delivery in selected health facilities.
The report, in addition, makes reference to information provided during interviews, focus group discussions, UHRC stakeholder and consultative meetings.
In the report, UHRC also raises concerns about lack of government action on its recommendations. Only one out of the more than 100 previous recommendations to government Ministries, Departments and Agencies (MDAs) was fully implemented.
About 63 recommendations were partially complied with while 36 were completely ignored.