What you need to know:
- The human rights officials said continuous abductions and allegations of torture that have made headlines should “be unheard of” and they will invoke Article 44 of the Constitution as well as the Prevention and Prohibitions Act to prosecute perpetrators.
The Uganda Human Rights Commission (UHRC) has vowed to fight and eradicate incidents of torture and abductions that have been reported across the country for close to four years.
The human rights officials said continuous abductions and allegations of torture that have made headlines should “be unheard of” and they will invoke Article 44 of the Constitution as well as the Prevention and Prohibitions Act to prosecute perpetrators.
The Constitution spells out the different non-derogable rights, including freedom from torture, cruel, inhuman and degrading treatment or punishment. It also stipulates freedom from slavery or servitude, the right to a fair hearing, and the right to an order of habeas corpus.
The officials made the remarks in reference to this newspaper’s story indicating that they had written to the National Unity Platform (NUP) party last week, asking for details of the missing people and more information on alleged torture of their supporters.
“We are going to do a countrywide search to make sure we find the people that NUP is claiming to be missing,” Mr Cryspin Kaheru, a commissioner at UHRC, said during a media briefing at their head office in Kampala yesterday.
“In this year and era, we should not be hearing of these incidents of torture, arrests, and detention without trial beyond the 24-hour rule. We should not be hearing of abductions of Ugandans. Very soon, we shall get back to Ugandans with details of our findings,” he added.
Sources close to the security circles also indicated that the commission has since met with the top security heads on the matter of abductions in an attempt to begin what many analysts term as the long journey to solving the conundrum of disappearances of people.
Brig Gen Felix Kulayijgye, the spokesperson of the Ugandan People’s Defence Forces, said: “When the Human Rights Commission meets with the security apparatus, the issue is to find out how we can work together, but some of these arrests cannot be accounted for because we do not have the people…You cannot account for what you don’t have.”
Last week, the NUP party tabled before the commission a list of 25 people it says have been missing from 2019 to date. This coincided with events in Parliament where the Deputy Speaker, Mr Thomas Tayebwa, suspended the House for more than an hour after Mityana Municipality MP Francis Zaake protested the continued arrests and detention of party supporters without trial.
“I have the obligation to represent my people who are the direct victims of torture and abductions. If parliamentarians are going to speak to [those in] power with soft voices, I will not be that type. I will tell them in a way I feel they can hear best,” Ms Zaake told Daily Monitor last evening.
In a related matter, the commission also indicated that they had dispatched teams to Luzira Prison where the National Economic Empowerment Development (NEED) party leader, Mr Joseph Kabuleta, is remanded following his arrest last week.
Mr Kabuleta is battling charges of spreading sectarianism, which he denies.
“We are making sure that he gets what he should. But we should also be careful not to brand every arrest from the security as an abduction, we need to be understood,” Ms Ruth Ssekindi, the director for monitoring and inspection at the Human Rights Commission, said.
The commission officials also used the event to highlight their plans to celebrate World Human Rights Day in Wakiso District next week. Uganda is a signatory of the United Nations General Assembly that in 1948 adopted the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (UDHR).
The Leader of Opposition in Parliament, Mr Mathias Mpuuga, rejected calls by Parliament to resubmit a list before Parliament of missing Opposition supporters.
He said the State should account for the names contained in the five lists the Opposition has since tabled before Parliament over the same cause.