Much as Freedom from torture is a non-derogable right and cannot be justified in any situation, there have been a number of reports of torture with gruesome and horrific images of the victims of these acts. Such incidents have been gradually increasing over the years and 380 torture cases were received by the Uganda Human Rights Commission in 2016 making it the second most violated human right in Uganda.
While speaking on behalf of the Democratic Governance Facility, after a procession at the UN International Day in support of torture victims, held at the CHOGM Square in Kampala, the Head of Programme at DGF, Ms. Sophie Racine observed that more needs to be done, and called upon the Government to allow unhindered access to the Uganda Human Rights Commission and other organizations working on torture to all detention centers in Uganda, and also called upon the Government to ratify the Optional Protocol to the Convention Against Torture and provide timely compensation to the victims of torture that have had their cases heard and determined by the Commission. Find below the detailed speech.
REMARKS BY SOPHIE RACINE, ACTING HEAD OF PROGRAMME, DGF DURING THE COMMEMORATION OF THE UN DAY IN SUPPORT OF VICTIMS AND SURVIVORS OF TORTURE AT THE CHOGM GROUNDS 26TH JUNE 2017
The Speaker of the Parliament of Uganda and Guest of Honor; Hon. Rebecca A. Kadaga,
The Chairperson of the Uganda Human Rights Commission; Hon. Meddi S.K Kaggwa,
The Head of Office OHCHR, Dr. Uchenna Emelonye,
The Members of Parliament Present,
Members of the Justice, Law and Order Sector,
Members of the Civil Society, Academia and Media
Distinguished Ladies and Gentlemen,
Let me start by thanking the Uganda Human Rights Commission and the Coalition Against Torture (CAT) for putting aside time and resources every year to commemorate this important day in support of victims and survivors of torture, and for inviting the DGF to make a few remarks.
I am pleased and honored to make a few remarks on behalf of the eight development partners that established the Democratic Governance Facility, namely; Austria, Denmark, the European Union, Ireland, the Netherlands, Norway, Sweden and the United Kingdom.
Ladies and Gentlemen, for the last one year, torture has been among the most discussed issues in the media. There have been a number of reports of torture with gruesome and horrific images of the victims of these acts. We have seen images of people who were killed in Kasese clashes in Novermber 2016; we have also seen images of the torture of the suspects arising out of investigations into those killings. Early this year, we witnessed the killing of a high profile police officer and we have seen a number of people arrested and tortured in Nalufenya and other detention centres. We have seen suspects appearing before court, unable to walk or stand due to the effects of torture on their bodies.
The stories and images are still fresh in our minds and as such today provides a great opportunity for Uganda to reflect on torture and its effects on us. There is sufficient evidence that torture remains a major concern in Uganda. The UHRC in its 19th Annual Report that was launched last month (May 2017), laid focus on torture in Uganda. The report shows that incidents of torture in Uganda have been gradually increasing over the years and 380 torture cases were received by the Commission in 2016 making it the second most violated human right in Uganda.
As most of you already know, torture or cruel and inhumane treatment is prohibited by a wide range of international human rights instruments and indeed by the Constitution of the Republic of Uganda as well. Freedom from torture is a non-derogable right and cannot be justified in any situation.
Ladies and Gentlemen, the Prevention and Prohibition of Torture Act was passed in 2012 after a tremendous effort by various stakeholders and the collective advocacy by the Coalition against Torture spearheaded by the African Centre for the Treatment and Rehabilitation of Torture Victims (ACTV). However, five years later the regulations to operationalize the Act have still not been passed, there has been minimal prosecution of perpetrators of torture, yet the prevalence of torture in Uganda has increased. It is of great concern therefore that incidents of torture still occur in spite of the robust legal framework in place.
In the recent months, the discourse on torture has gained momentum and this presents us with an opportunity to discuss this issue further; interrogate the factors that perpetuate torture but also those that undermine its prosecution. We are aware that the Police through its Professional Standards Unit have dealt with some of these cases, but are these processes sufficient. Where is the justice when a Police Officer is fined or demoted for a criminal act that has left another person deformed? Ladies and Gentlemen, we should not allow injustice to prevail.
We must admit that a lot of work has been done by several actors to fight against torture. We recognize the role played by the Uganda Human Rights Commission in their reports on torture, their continued visits to detention facilities and hearing cases on torture in their tribunals. We also recognize the work done by the Coalition against Torture headed by the African Centre for the Treatment and Rehabilitation of Torture through their reports to regional and international mechanisms, their community sensitizations and media campaigns.
Ladies and Gentlemen, a lot has been done, but more needs to be done. The fight against torture cannot be done by one person or one organization and that is why the theme for today is Together lets implement the Anti-Torture Law. We therefore call upon the Uganda Police Force to investigate the acts of torture especially those done by their officers and the Director of Public Prosecutions to prosecute the police officers and other security agents that are torturing suspects in detention centers. We call upon the Prisons Authority to increase their supervision over detainees to ensure that they are protected from torture and report all incidents of torture.
We also call upon the Government to allow unhindered access to the Uganda Human Rights Commission and other organizations working on torture to all detention centers in Uganda. We further call upon the Government to ratify the Optional Protocol to the Convention Against Torture and provide timely compensation to the victims of torture that have had their cases heard and determined by the Commission.
Ladies and Gentlemen, although a lot has been done in the fight against torture in Uganda, much more still needs to be done. Let us join efforts and together let us implement the anti-torture law.