MPs task Human Rights Commission to name perpetrators of torture in Uganda

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By Mary Asujo

Parliament has given Uganda Human Rights Commission (UHRC) one week to present the names of the individuals behind torture 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 on cases of human rights violations currently before the committee, which does not meet the parameters of the intended investigations.

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. Wangadya said, 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.

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.

During plenary recently, the 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, Hon Mathias Mpuuga walked out of the House.

“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, Hon Francis Mwijukye called out the commission stop blaming 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, Hon 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, Hon 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.

Established by the Act of parliament, the Uganda Human Rights Commission is mandated to among other functions to investigate, at its own initiative or on a complaint made by any person or group of persons against the violation of any human right, to visit jails, prisons, and places of detention or related facilities with a view of assessing and inspecting conditions of the inmates and make recommendations.

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