Torture, kidnap dominate  Uganda Law Society report 

Left: National Unity Platform mobiliser Samuel Masereka is aided to walk at the party headquarters in Kamokya, Kampala, on January 31, 2022. Right: A close-up of some of the scars and wounds on Mr Masereka’s feet. PHOTOS/ABUBAKER LUBOWA

What you need to know:

  • The army denied involvement in kidnap and torture of civillians.

The current wave of illegal arrests and detentions of mainly Opposition politicians dominated the rule of law report of the Uganda Law Society (ULS).
The report dubbed “The state of the rule of law, fourth quarterly report, 2022”, states that the identity of those conducting the illegal arrests remains a mystery.
“It, however, remains difficult to get a clear picture of what always happens and who exactly is tormenting and abducting Ugandans since the government has repeatedly denied claims,” the report, which was released yesterday, reads in part.
It added: “To date, social media and news reports remain full of stories of how various persons are being kidnapped by unknown plain-clothed gunmen driving in drones (Toyota Hiace minivan).”

Article 23 of the Constitution states that every person has a right to the protection of their personal liberty. Arrests and detentions are only lawful if they are authorised by law, justifiable and carried out in accordance with the law.
Speaking at the launch of the report in Kampala yesterday, the president of ULS, Mr Bernard Oundo, said the institution maintains that arrests shouldn’t be turned into kidnaps.
“We have always said that when arresting someone, arrest them in accordance with the law. They should be told what offences they have committed, and be allowed access to personal doctors and lawyers. The arrested person should also be released within a period of not less than 48 hours or be formally charged in court,” Mr Oundo said.

Left to right: The human rights and open societies officer at the British High Commission in Kampala, Ms Shaleen Nalubwama; the  president of Uganda Law Society, Mr Bernard Oundo; and the executive director of the Human Rights Centre Uganda, Ms Margaret Sekaggya, during the launch of the report in Kampala on December 15, 2022. PHOTO/ ISAAC KASAMANI

Ms Margaret Ssekaggya, the executive director of the Human Rights Centre Uganda, asked the police and army to explain why the illegal arrests and detentions continue to happen.
Col Moses Wandera, the deputy chief of legal services in the Uganda People’s Defence Forces (UPDF), said the kidnaps and illegal arrests are not conducted by the army.
“I want to say that we are not all clean, there could be some errant officers who are carrying out these illegal arrests. But our mandate is to guard the territories but not to get involved in arrests. We can only aide them,” Col Wandera said.
He added: “Our UPDF cars are well labelled and they are known. But I encourage people to report those behind illegal arrests and we deal with them.”

Ms Claire Nabakka, who represented the police spokesperson, Mr Fred Enanga, said the role of the police is to maintain peace and protect life and property.

She asked the participants at the report launch to find out where the torture originates from.
“How do we get to this point? Let’s look at the family unit; you see these video clips trending every other day. This is coming from someone; if we could look at how did we go backwards and may be a little bit of damage control. Yes we have had torture cases, but if you have been tortured, please report,” she said.
“Someone talked about collective responsibility, accountability, what is ULS doing, what are we doing. Can we find ways of starting from the family unit? Soldiers, police officers all come from family unit. I am just saying, we all just need to play our part,” she added.