Human Rights Watch called on the Ugandan government to close illegal detention centers used by the security services to suppress dissent, in a report issued Tuesday warning against the use of such sites for torture.
“Human Rights Watch calls on the Ugandan government to immediately close the so-called safe houses and other illegal detention facilities,” the Human Rights Watch said.
The NGO also called for the immediate release of detainees in those places.
The report is based on interviews with 51 people, including 34 former detainees and kidnapping witnesses, who described abuses they suffered at the hands of police and security personnel between April 2019 and November 2021.
The crackdown intensified in the two months before and after Uganda’s 2021 elections, with government critics, opposition politicians and protesters illegally arrested and disappeared.
In many cases, the whereabouts of the detainees were unknown, according to Human Rights Watch, a year after the election, in which President Yoweri Museveni, who has ruled Uganda with an iron fist since 1986, was re-elected.
Victims consulted told Human Rights Watch that they were driven in cars known as “drones,” used to kidnap opponents of the Ugandan government, before being taken to secret detention sites overseen by the Internal Security Organization (ISO), the local intelligence service.
At these sites, victims had been brutally tortured, such as in cases of kidnappers who had their nails torn off, their bodies burned with irons, or they were sexually abused.
In some cases, victims were handcuffed, chained and hung from the ceiling for dozens of hours at a time, a technique dubbed “rambo”.
Others reported being injected with unknown substances, given electric shocks, and some said they saw detainees with bricks hanging from their testicles.
Cases of ill-treatment were documented in a parliamentary committee report from February 2020, which reported on torture carried out in police and ISO detention centers and called for further investigation.
But no such investigations have been conducted, according to Human Rights Watch.
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