Arua torture victims will get justice, one way or the other

Sunday September 9 2018


By Victoria Nyeko

Recently, Kyadondo East MP Robert Kyagulanyi, aka Bobi Wine, who is currently undergoing specialised medical treatment in the US, wrote for the first time, narrating the physical and psychological torture he endured following his August 13 arrest by the Special Forces Command soldiers in Arua Town.

More than 30 people, including newly elected Arua Municipality MP Kassiano Wadri, were charged with treason over allegations of stoning President Museveni’s car.

“They beat me, punched me and kicked me with their boots. No part of my body was spared. They hit my eyes, mouth and nose. They hit my elbows and knees. They pulled my manhood and squeezed my testicles while punching me with objects,” Bobi Wine wrote.

“They pulled off my shoes, hit my ankles with pistol butts and stole my wallet, phone and money. They forced my head below the car seat, hitting my genitals with objects. I continued to groan in pain and someone hit the back of my head with an object. The time I became conscious again, I was somewhere in a small room with a small window.”

“My legs were tied together with my hands with very tight cuffs. I was bleeding from the nose and ears. I was in great pain. My whole body was swollen. I was shaking uncontrollably. I cannot wish what happened to me on anyone, not even President Museveni.”

In response to the torture allegations, the army spokesperson Brig Richard Karemire said: “We don’t torture people like that and an inquiry into the alleged misconduct was constituted. Every officer will be individually held accountable.”

It was difficult not to be stunned by the horrendous and painful accounts of MP Kyagulanyi’s story. By contrast, 55 years ago on the November 22, 1963, United States president John F. Kennedy was shot dead in an open-car motorcade in Dallas as he drove through a crowd of several thousand people.

An hour later, Lee Harvey Oswald was arrested by the police. Oswald was arraigned in court the next day and charged with the murders of president Kennedy and police officer J.D. Tippit.

Even in the worst case scenario, the assassination of president Kennedy, there was never allegations of Oswald or civilians being violently tortured by US Secret Service agents.

Instead, they exercised restraint and protected unarmed civilians, displaying unprecedented military discipline and professionalism under extremely desperate and chaotic circumstances.

Both the International Criminal Court (ICC) and United Nations (UN) Convention Against Torture (1984) outline torture as acts perpetrated and sanctioned by the state.

It is defined in the Rome Statute, of which Uganda is signatory, as infliction of physical, mental pain to obtain information or confession for punishment, arbitrary detention, and persecutions on political or other grounds being illustrated as crimes against humanity.

What our leaders should note is that all these excesses are being recorded. In 1998, eight years after being ousted from power, former Chilean leader Augusto Pinochet travelled to Europe for specialised medical treatment.

Upon arrival in London, a Spanish judge issued an international warrant to prosecute Pinochet for his responsibility in the systematic murders, torture, human rights violations committed under his government.

Pinochet was eventually allowed to return to Chile in 2000 following the United Kingdom’s controversial decision citing Pinochet’s poor health.
Among the torture victims of the Arua violence are Mityana Municipality MP Francis Zaake, some women who were brutally beaten, and Mr Shaban Atiku who risks being permanently disabled.

Somehow, justice seems so far away while the victims languish in pain.

Ms Victoria Nyeko is a media commentator.
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