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New US report pins Uganda govt, Judiciary on impunity, cover-up of extrajudicial killings and torture of opposition supporters

Police throw a teargas canister into Bobi Wine’s car in the just concluded election campaigns (PHOTO/Courtesy).

KAMPALA – The 2020 US human rights report has accused government security agencies of acting with impunity in human rights violations.

The report also accuses the Judiciary, the army, police and the President for shielding the security officers involved in arbitrary arrests, killing and torture of those with dissenting views. This is reflected in failure to investigate the human rights issues and act on them.

“Impunity was a problem, and it was widespread in the UPF, UPDF, the Uganda Prisons Service (UPS), and the executive branch. The security forces did not take adequate measures to investigate and bring to account officers implicated in human rights abuses, especially in incidents involving members of the political opposition,” the report reads in part.

The report lists the human rights issues as unlawful or arbitrary killings by government forces, forced disappearance, torture and cases of cruel, inhuman, or degrading treatment or punishment by government agencies; harsh and life-threatening prison conditions; arbitrary arrest or detention; political prisoners or detainees; serious problems with the independence of the judiciary; arbitrary or unlawful interference with privacy.

Others are serious restrictions on free expression, the press, and the internet, and unjustified arrests or prosecution of journalists, site blocking, and criminal libel laws; substantial interference with the freedom of peaceful assembly and freedom of association. The report also speaks of restrictions on political participation; serious acts of corruption; lack of investigation of and accountability for violence against women and the existence of the worst forms of child labor.

The report cites the torture, arrest and detention of Opposition politicians such as Robert Kyagulanyi, also known as Bobi Wine, Francis Zaake and the killing of opposition supporters such as Ritah Nabukenya, who was run over by a Uganda Police Force (UPF) truck assigned to the Rapid Response Unit (RRU) on February 24, 2020.

“On February 25, Kyagulanyi reported that as his motorcade drove through Nansana Town on his way back from Nabukenya’s funeral, an officer attached to the military’s Local Defense Unit (LDU) shot into a crowd of his supporters, killing 28-year-old Daniel Kyeyune,” the report says.

It adds that police has not add investigated any report to the two deaths.

The report also pins government on the torture of opposition supporters such as MP Francis Zaake.

“The UPF and Uganda Peoples’ Defence Forces (UPDF) had arrested Zaake at his home in Mityana District on April 19, accusing him of violating COVID-19 restrictions on public gatherings when he distributed food to his constituents. On May 6, Zaake told journalists that upon his arrest, UPF officers under the watch of Mityana District police commander Alex Mwine and regional police commander Bob Kagarura beat him with sticks and batons, kicked him on his head, and then tied his legs and hands to suspend him under the bench in the flatbed on a police pickup truck, which drove him to the headquarters of the Chieftaincy of Military Intelligence (CMI) in Mbuya,” the report says.

The US report further accused government security forces for arresting, beating, and killing civilians as punishment for allegedly violating regulations to combat the COVID-19 pandemic.

“Local media reported LDU and UPF officers indiscriminately beat persons they found outside after the nighttime curfew with sticks, batons, and gunstocks, maiming some and killing others. On May 13, LDU officers shot primary school teacher Eric Mutasiga in the leg and chest, as he pleaded with the officers not to arrest his neighbor, whom the officers had found selling food three minutes into a night time curfew,” the report states.

The report says the UPDF did not arrest or prosecute the LDU officer whom amateur cellphone video showed shooting into a crowd of opposition supporters and killing Daniel Kyeyune. Impunity was widespread because authorities gave political and judicial cover to officials who committed human rights violations.

The US report further notes that on August 22, President Museveni commended the UPDF’s Special Forces Command (SFC) officers who beat Kyagulanyi in August 2018.

“Speaking at a police recruits graduation ceremony, Museveni stated: “I found the man (Kyagulanyi) had been beaten properly, in the right way. He boxed them, and they also tried to box back until they subdued him. I was surprised that the SFC people acted properly; it was self-defense and beyond self-defense they didn’t beat. It was in order.” The government also provided legal services to police and prison officers facing charges of abuse in court,” the report states.

 

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