Let government find and prosecute those behind kidnaps and torture of Ugandans

By Moses Sserwanga

The country is outraged following numerous cases of tortured suspects while in detention centers and  human rights defenders are joining the rest of Ugandans to call on the NRM government to arrest and prosecute security agents involved in this wanton vice that is creating a very bad image for Uganda on the global stage .

Right now, social media is awash with images of Eric Mwesigwa who alleges that he was tortured by security personnel who placed hot metal objects on his body leaving two raw wounds on his chest . One can imagine the excruciating pain that was visited on Mwesigwa by his tormentors . The grisly images of this man’s wounds have gone viral on social media and the negative vibe about Uganda’s torture chambers is far and wide .

President Yoweri Museveni while officiating at Tarehe Sita in Mbarara condemned torture and directed the leadership of the security agencies to bring the perpetuators to book.

The spokesman of the UPDF-national army , Brig. Gen. Felix Kulayigye has while appearing on the Capital Gang Saturday morning program told the nation that Mwesigwa was not tortured by security agents .

The question then is who tortured Mwesigwa? Are there parallel armed rogue gangs that are kidnapping and torturing citizens and if so what is the State doing about it. Ugandans need some reassuring answers about this worrying situation .  

Its not so long ago when it took the brave actions of the Inspector General of Police John Martins Okoth Ochola –a lawyer himself , to close the notorious Nalufenya detention center were suspects would be tortured.

The Uganda national Constitution 1995 in Article 24 under the Bill of Rights provides for human dignity and protection from inhuman treatment . It states thus ; “ no one shall be subjected to torture, cruel , inhuman or degrading treatment and punishment.”

The Prohibition and Prevention of Torture Act read together with other international legal instruments interalia –the United Convention Against Torture –outlaws torture in any form including but not limited to physical and psychological torture, holding suspects incommunicado and denying them adequate medical care .

The International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR) further provides that the right to be free from torture cannot be suspended or limited in any circumstance even in war, threat of war , political instability emergency-and it cannot be defended on the basis of orders from superiors .

The Uganda government has acceded to the legal prohibition based on a universal philosophical consensus that torture and ill-treatment are repugnant ,abhorrent ,and immoral.

Although it can be argued that coercion is one of the basic characteristics of the State-especially the African states –it should be carried out lawful. You can still use the available legal framework (and Uganda is good at this ) to put in line the errant , transgressing members of society . You don’t have to torture someone to make them respect the law.

Research has shown that in most cases torture is encouraged by people in authority and those who carry out the gratuitous acts of torture are usually motivated by the fear of loss of status or respect, and the desire to be seen as “good citizen” or “good subordinate.” This calls for constant training of the security operatives to respect human rights while enforcing the law .

The courts of Uganda have also upheld these same principles of law-to the effect that the rule of law is not a self-effecting doctrine where it is enforcement is a function of the will of the people but that rather there are institutions (duty bearers) that are mandated to enforce the law while protecting the civil liberties and human rights of the citizens.

The practice of torture, therefore, is in stark contrast to the doctrine of the rule of law. All suspects in the custody of the state should be accorded their fundamental human rights as enshrined in our constitution .

Under our criminal justice system suspects are presumed innocent until proved guilty by a court of competent jurisdiction.  Security agencies should not be allowed a free hand to torture suspects because anyone can fall victim any day .

We need a robust human rights protection mechanisms involving both the rights holders and duty bearers.  Today is someone else suffering human rights violations –tomorrow it will be you and this vicious circle of torturing citizens should not go on unabated .

Comment from write: Hope this article shines a spot on the perpetuators of the horrendous crimes of torture .

The writer is Media and Communications Consultant

And Advocate of the  High Court of Uganda 



Writer is a media and communications consultant And Advocate of the High Court of Uganda

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