The gross circulated images and video depicting a child of 3 years both on social and mainstream media platforms yesterday being subjected to possible abuse and resultantly torture and ill-treatment in Kira Municipality have warranted a discussion on the issue on my part. Torture is a form of child abuse and perpetrators of such should be brought to account for such abuses for a torture free environment in the dispensation of access to justice.
Article 24 of the 1995 Constitution of the Republic of Uganda guarantees ones’ right to freedom from ‘… torture and cruel, inhumane and degrading treatment or punishment.’ It further guarantees the absoluteness of this enjoyment in Article 44, paragraph (a). Uganda enacted the Prevention and Prohibition of Torture Act No.3 of 2012 (PPTA 2012) which became effective in September 2012 thereby criminalizing the violation of Articles 24 and 44 (a) of the Constitution in Section 2 and spelling out the punishment for such commission or omission in Section 4 of the Act.
Torture has since been defined in Section 2 of the PPTA 2012 as any action or omission done by any person and causes severe pain or suffering on the mind or body of a person for a purpose. On 8th February 2018, while passing judgment, Honourable Justice Stephen Mubiru discussed the purposive element to satisfactory length in a child-related matter in Criminal Sessions Case No.0152 of 2015; Uganda versus Nansamba Robinah where a one Erima Ivan was murdered at Nawabango village, Zirobwe Sub-county in Luweero district. This High Court decision adds to the limited jurisprudence on cases decided under the Prevention and Prohibition of Torture Act No.3 of 2012.
Our 1995 Constitution, therefore, implies that Children have a right to enjoy this freedom from Torture and ill-treatment and the State owes children a duty in punishing those elements found to be in violation of this guaranteed freedom. Court has in several instances pronounced itself on the issue of child abuse regarding the illegality of corporal punishment for instance in the Constitutional Court of Uganda at Kampala reference No.10 of 2000, Simon Kyamanywa versus Uganda where corporal punishment was said to constitute ‘cruel, inhumane, degrading treatment or punishment’. Besides, Section 94 (9) of the Children Act condemns the same.
Talking about the PPTA 2012, it is encouraging to know that the Uganda Police has not relented when it comes to Torture and children. To illustrate this, they are once again investigating yesterday’s incident under the Prevention and Prohibition of Torture Act 2012 as stated by the spokesperson of Kampala Metropolitan Police, Luke Oweyesigire yesterday. Police did not disappoint when it came to a one Peninah Kukunda, 29, a resident of Buwate, Kira Municipality in Wakiso district for allegedly torturing a 6-year-old boy for 3 months with an electric cable, a phone charger and at times depending on the mood would –burn his body with unidentified metal object in September 2019. It will also be exciting to see how best the Office of the Directorate of Public Prosecutions utilise the High Court decision in Criminal Sessions Case No.0152 of 2015; Uganda versus Nansamba Robinah already at their disposal on torture, children and the Prevention and Prohibition of Torture Act No.3 of 2012.
In conclusion on this matter, Uganda’s jurisprudence on Torture appears to be growing and we are visibly making steady progress ever since the Jolly Tumuhirwe child abuse case (“monster maid case’) which similarly was supposed to be tried under the Prevention and Prohibition of Torture Act 2012 but the charge of torture was substituted with that one of grievous bodily harm under the Penal Code Act Chapter 120.
The writer, Kirya Mukalere Paul is a Human Rights advocate working with the African Centre for Treatment and Rehabilitation of Torture Victims (ACTV) in charge of Communications and Advocacy.