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UHRC asked to name perpetrators of torture

The Uganda Human Rights Commission presenting a report on the Human Rights situation in Uganda to the Parliamentary Committee on Human Rights.

Kampala, Uganda | THE INDEPENDENT | The Uganda Human Rights Commission (UHRC) has been given a week to present names of perpetrators and victims of human rights violations.

This followed concerns by Members of Parliament on the Committee of Human Rights that the Commission provided inadequate information which does not meet the parameters of the committee’s intended investigations.

On Tuesday, 08 February 2022, Deputy Speaker Anita Among directed the committee to investigate alleged human rights violations by security operatives, after Opposition legislators led by Leader of the Opposition, Mathias Mpuuga walked out of the House.

While appearing before the committee on Thursday, 24 February 2022, the Chairperson of Commission, Mariam Wangadya said they registered 1,205 complaints of alleged human rights violations between January 2020 and January 2022.

“The human rights violations reported to the commission were influenced by the enforcement of the standard operating procedures by law enforcement agencies to mitigate the spread of Covid-19,” said Wangadya.

She cited 600 cases of alleged torture, 378 cases of deprivation of personal liberty, 90 cases of deprivation of life, 71 cases of deprivation of security of person and 65 cases of disappearance of persons.

“Investigations of the 600 alleged tortures are in advanced stages although the speed at which the complaints are being resolved by the commission has been hampered by challenges like funding constraints, lack of quorum and few commission members,” Wangadya added.

She told MPs that the commission’s investigations at Kitalya prison with 87 inmates indicated that 35 of them were arrested by the UPDF in Kalangala and 52 by the Chieftaincy of Military Intelligence on charges related to the 2021 general elections.

Wangadya called on the committee to ensure funding to the commission to enable it effectively implement its mandate.

“We further look forward to advocacy efforts of the Committee to ensure that more members are expeditiously appointed to the Commission, to enable speedy hearings at the Tribunal and clearance of the backlog,” said Wangadya.

MPs however were dissatisfied with the information provided by the UHRC officials, saying it did not speak to the committee’s intended point of investigation.

Buhweju County MP Francis Mwijukye called out the commission for laying blame on the media for highlighting cases of torture in the country yet the acts have been witnessed.

“Her view on torture in the country is vague. I want to ask her to tell us if according to her, we have torture in Uganda by security agencies and other state agencies,” said Mwijukye.

Nwoya East County MP Godfrey Okello tasked the commission to name perpetrators and victims of the alleged human rights violations.

“We have always heard that there are elements in the UPDF and the Police Force who on their own, violate people’s rights. I would be happy if she made mention of such people because that is the centre of our terms of reference,” Okello said.

Terego District Woman MP, Rose Obigah said naming and shaming of the perpetrators is a major way through which acts of violence and human rights offences will be restrained.

Hanifa Nabukeera, Mukono District MP asked the commission to present information on investigations done on the existence of safe houses where alleged torture is meted out.

UHRC Commissioner, Crispy Kaheru said they continue to receive reports on torture and have carried out investigations that will provide statistical information that will allow the Parliament committee to arrive at accurate findings.

“The offenders involved in human rights violations are a varied matrix of stakeholders. I will not be shy to say that in some cases, indeed, security agencies have been fingered,” said Kaheru.

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