Torture: The need for rehabilitation services

AUTHOR: Brenda Mary Kemigisa. PHOTO/COURTESY

What you need to know:

  • There is a need for more rehabilitation services for survivors of torture, especially in government health facilities.

Torture is a serious human rights violation that can have devastating physical and psychological consequences. In Uganda, torture is a widespread problem, with reports of it being used by security agencies. 

According to the Prevention and Prohibition of Torture Act (PPTA2012), torture means any act or omission, by which severe pain or suffering whether physical or mental, is intentionally inflicted on a person by or at the instigation of or with the consent or acquiescence of any person whether a public official or other person acting in an official or private capacity for a purpose such as; obtaining information or a confession from the person, to punish a person for an act he or she or any other person has committed, or is suspected of having committed or of planning to commit and to intimidate a person. 

Survivors of torture often suffer from a range of physical and psychological problems, which include physical injuries such as broken bones, burns, and internal bleeding; psychological trauma such as post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), anxiety, and depression; social isolation and stigma, and economic hardship.

Torture can have a lasting impact on survivors’ lives, making it difficult to rebuild their lives and relationships. Rehabilitation services are essential in helping survivors to cope with the physical and psychological effects, recover and rebuild their lives. However, these services are inadequate in Uganda.

A torture survivor would need a number of services to fully recover, including medical care to treat their physical injuries. This may include surgery, physiotherapy and pain management. Psychological care services can be given through individual psychological counselling, group psychological counselling, and brief family therapy sessions to survivors with mental health challenges.

This helps to improve the psychological well-being of a survivor. And lastly, victims of torture need social support to help them rebuild their livelihood. This may include support groups, legal aid services, and financial assistance. 

Rehabilitation services are important for a survivor’s recovery journey.  Some of the organisations that provide rehabilitation services like African Centre for Treatment and Rehabilitation of Torture Victims (ACTV) registered and rehabilitated more than 1,000 victims and 1,032 torture allegations in 2021. This is alarming because not everyone who faces torture reports their case. 

There is a need for more rehabilitation services for survivors of torture, especially in government health facilities. The government of Uganda has a responsibility to protect its citizens from torture. It must also ensure survivors have access to the rehabilitation.

Articles 24 and 44 of the Ugandan Constitution prohibit torture. Uganda made the Convention against Torture part of national legislation by enacting the Prevention and Provision of Torture Act of 2012 and its regulations in 2017.

Some measures that the government can take to address the issue of torture may include the police following up the Prevention and Prohibition of Torture Act (PPTA2012) and use Form4 to report and investigate the allegations of torture. Uganda should also ratify the Optional Protocol to the Convention against Torture (OPCAT).

Ratifying OPCAT would make it mandatory for Uganda to establish a National Preventive Mechanism (NPM) with unhindered access to all institutions where persons are deprived of their liberty.  The Ministry of Health should also establish a rehabilitation policy for survivors of torture and violence.  

Torture has a long-term effect on the survivors, we must all work together to end torture in Uganda. Survivors of torture deserve to be heard and to receive the help they need to recover. 

Brenda Mary Kemigisa is a communications person at African Centre for Treatment and Rehabilitation of Torture Victims (ACTV).