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Impunity to blame for rising torture cases in Uganda, say human rights activists

Police and Military officers torture a civilian in Kasese. (PHOTO/File)

KAMPALA – Activists have blamed the deteriorating human rights situation in the country on impunity perpetuated by government security agencies.

Police and the army have continued to come on top of agencies accused of perpetrating human rights violations through illegal detentions and torture, among others.

And speaking at a breakfast meeting organized by the Uganda Human Rights Commission on Tuesday, several activists single out the state security agencies whom they accused of impunity.

Bugiri Municipality MP Asumani Basalirwa said: “Uganda is a very fortunate country, we have a law on almost everything. If you compared the number of laws here and those of European countries, ours are more. I want to commend Parliament for making the laws. The mistake we make is to believe that legislation is enough to make things right in this country.”

He added: “The challenge we have in Uganda is not the absence of laws or appropriate punishments. The challenge in Uganda is impunity. If there’s a gathering and you sense or see SFC around, disperse. We the political actors know what they are capable of doing. Never joke with the UPDF and SFC. I am not preaching pessimism, what I am saying are the challenge we face and that is why some of us are still in the struggle, we see light at the end of the tunnel.”

Ms Sylivia Namubiru, another activist, accused the government and its agencies of lack of transparency in the war against human rights violations.

“We continue having torture because we have inadequate remedies/limited access to justice. There is a lot of impunity and lack of accountability on the side of the state,” she said.

Ms Roselyn Karugonjo Segawa, another activist, said security agencies have abused their mandate in law enforcement.

“The law allows security organs to use proportionate force. Torture is the use of excessive force and that’s what seems to be happening. Nothing justifies torture, because we see it happening every day in this country doesn’t make it right,” she said.

“Law enforcement is very stressful, if not well handled and the police officers develop mental health issues, the impact is going to be felt by the public. However, there are those who have no health issues but go ahead to torture the public,” she added.

Mr. Basalirwa called for the training of security agencies on the values of human rights.

“We should train our security operatives more on the values of human rights and constitutionalism. We should also tell them that it’s possible to outlive a regime. The way they behave now, it’s the life they will die with the regime,” he said.

A report from Makerere University’s School of Law released in February this year shows that cases of abuse and violations of human rights are on the rise.

The researchers say after interviewing a total of 359 people in 38 districts across the country, they found that rights violations have been characterised by extrajudicial killings, torture, inhuman and degrading treatment, illegal arrest and detention, denial of right to a speedy and fair hearing, and freedom of assembly and association.

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