Nairobi, March 22 (EFE). Hundreds of Ugandan government critics, opposition supporters and peaceful protesters, among others, were tortured and unlawfully detained by security forces between 2018 and 2021 in that African country, denounced by Human Rights Watch today in a new report.
“The Ugandan government has tolerated brazen arbitrary arrests, unlawful detention, and mistreatment of detainees by its officials,” said Oryem Niko, a researcher at Human Rights Watch in Uganda, who was involved in this investigation.
Although the Ugandan authorities have at times acknowledged these abuses, the human rights NGO has done little to bring justice to the victims and their relatives, even when they face physical, mental or economic problems.
“Urgent action is needed to assist the victims, hold abusive security officials to account, and end impunity and injustice,” Niko added.
The 98-page report, I Just Need Justice: Unlawful Detention and Abuses in Unauthorized Places of Detention in Uganda, is based on interviews with more than thirty former detainees.
They described how they were held in underground rooms at Parliament House, the barracks, an island in Lake Victoria and other makeshift detention centers, after security officers forced them into unmarked cars at gunpoint.
There – where they were unable to speak to relatives or lawyers – the former detainees claimed that they had been tortured with electric shocks or by injecting unidentified substances.
In addition, some women and men were raped and sexually tortured while in custody.
Additionally, in almost all cases, the interviewees alleged that they had been blackmailed and demanded money from them or their relatives in order to be released.
According to this human rights organization, the frequency and number of arrests and violations of this type increased during the two months preceding the general elections in January 2021, and this continued during the subsequent elections.
“While the authorities have released some detainees over the past year, the whereabouts of many have not been revealed,” Human Rights Watch said.
Security agents accused some of the detainees of plotting to assassinate or spy on senior officials in the government of President Yoweri Museveni, who has been in power since 1986, as well as being accomplices of rivals seeking to oust the president.
Niko explained that “the fear and pain experienced by the detainees and their families alike” are among the reasons why these illegal detentions are “totally prohibited and classified as crimes” under international law.
Similarly, the researcher highlighted the “physical and emotional scars” that survivors “have to bear for the rest of their lives”, often without receiving the medical care they need while in detention or with “few financial resources” to restore their physical health. mentality after his release.
Although Ugandan law criminalizes torture and unlawful detention, “no one has been convicted under these laws,” the HRW report noted.
To prevent these abuses from happening again, Human Rights Watch recommended “urgent reform” to the police and other security agencies to prevent “these horrific abuses from occurring with impunity.”
Last Friday, the United States asked the Ugandan government for detailed information on the killing of 54 people during protests in Kampala in 2020 in favor of the opposition, as well as expressing concern about reports of missing or tortured citizens.
For its part, the EU delegation in Uganda expressed concern last February about reports of torture and other human rights violations in the country.
Museveni has ruled Uganda since 1986 and was re-elected in January 2021 after an election period marked by the disappearance of hundreds of opposition supporters and sporadic live-fire protests that killed at least 54 people. EFE
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