Joint Press Statement on the Commemoration of the UN Day In Support of Torture Survivors:
Theme: Implement the Anti-Torture Law!!
Monday 22nd June 2015
The World annually commemorates the United Nations International Day in Support of Victims of Torture every26thJune providing an opportunity for human rights defenders and survivors to speak out against the crime of torture and to remember and support victims and survivors of torture throughout the world.
As we once again commemorate this year’s United Nations International Day in Support of Victims of Torture on June 26th 2015,all players including citizens, civil society and most importantly the State reflect and re-commit themselves to the preservation, protection,promotionand creation of a conducive environment for the full enjoyment of fundamental human rights especially the right to freedom from torture.
The “Right to Rehabilitation” (R2R) is the international theme for the 2015 campaign in line with the General Comment on Article 14 of the Convention Against Torture published by the UN Committee Against Torture in 2012, which among other requirements recommends that rehabilitation of torture victims should be holistic including medical, psychological, social, access to justice and redress.Whereas international and domestic law grants all torture survivors a right to rehabilitation, in practice, this is not always a reality. As such, 26th June 2015, is yet another great opportunity for human rights defenders to reiterate that survivors of torture have a right to rehabilitation.
In Uganda, the Uganda Human Rights Commission (UHRC), members of the Coalition Against Torture (CAT) led by the African Centre for Treatment and Rehabilitation of Torture Victims (ACTV), and the Human Rights Centre-Uganda (HRCUG), have adopted a nationaltheme: ‘’Implement the Anti-Torture Law !!” The focus this year is on implementation of the Prevention and Prohibition of Torture Act, 2012 or Anti-Torture Law and the need for the Judiciary and law enforcement agencies to make effective use of this law to offer justice to survivors of torture. This year we again urge members of the public including torture survivors and all concerned citizens to fight the vice by reporting acts of torture to the nearest police station, police post, the Uganda Human Rights Commission, any judicial officer or any other relevant institution or body having jurisdiction over the offence.
This year’s advocacy activities to commemorate the International Day in Support of Victims of Torture are premised on the emphasis that the definition of torture has been widened in the new Anti-Torture Law to include private individuals, for example from the community and general public and non-state actors, for example rebelswhere they have individual liability for torture offencesthat they have individually committed.
In Uganda, the 26th of June yet again offers an opportunity for human rights defenders to demand for accountability from the State and all other players in the fight against torture and offers a voice for us to call for the implementation of the new law since its enactment in 2012.
Whereas Uganda has ratified a number of international and regional instruments that prohibit torture; and freedom from Torture, Cruel, Inhuman and Degrading Treatment is also guaranteed by Article 24 of the Uganda Constitution and made an absolute freedom by Article 44(a) of the same Constitution; the UHRC, CAT and other stakeholders and partnersrecognized that there were still gaps in the legal framework pertaining to the prohibition of torture in Uganda. The Uganda Human Rights Commission therefore together with other partners under the Coalition Against Torture (CAT), comprised of Civil Society Organizations initiated the process of enacting the Prevention and Prohibition of Torture law in Uganda in 2009, which we are happy to note culminated into enactment of the Anti-Torture Law in 2012.
As we commemorate the UN International Day in Support of Victims of Torture, the UHRC, and CAT note that despite the current Anti-Torture Law being in place and other efforts to fight torture in Uganda, recent reports especially those published by the Uganda Human Rights Commission and other human rights organisations still reveal that cases of torture still rank high among other categories of human rights violations. It is therefore imperative that today we are strongly calling on all actors to actively and effectively use the new anti-torture law in order to curb the vice.
Additionally, with an outstanding bill of over 3 billion Uganda shillings in compensation awards for torture victims, some of which date back 14 or more years ago, it is evident that government has been slow in fulfilling the payment of compensations awarded against the state. UHRC and the Coalition Against Torture with the other partners strongly call on government to urgently pay the outstanding compensations to the survivors of torture some of whom have had their livelihoods completely disrupted and destroyed, as a way of rehabilitation.
Today as we commemorate this year’s UN International Day in support of Victims of Torture, the Uganda Human Rights Commission, the Coalition Against Torture, the United Nations Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights-Kampala, the Human Rights Centre Uganda and other partners would like to make the following calls in order to contribute to a torture free Uganda:
- Call for the judiciary and all law enforcement agencies to effectively utilise the new Anti-Torture Law
- Urge government to offer timely redress, rehabilitation and compensation to survivors of torture;
- urgent need for wide dissemination of provisions of the Anti -torture law
by all key actors including the Uganda Human Rights Commission, the Coalition Against Torture,civil society organizations, the judiciary and law enforcement agencies in order to popularize it;
- call to membersof the public to report all cases of torture to the nearest police station or Uganda Human Rights Commission or any other relevant institution recognized under the law;
- strict adherence to provisions of the Constitution and other regional and
international human rights standards bylaw enforcement agencies particularly the police, the army and KCCA Law Enforcement Unitto respect and observe human rights in the course of their work;
- strong call to state and non-state actors to jointly fully commit themselves to the elimination of torture in Uganda and lastly to
- Once again call upon government to urgently ratify the Optional Protocol to
the United Nations Convention Against Torture (OPCAT) and adhere to all its provisions as an additional step towards eliminating torture in Uganda.
This year the Uganda Human Rights Commission, members of CAT led by ACTV and other partners have lined up a number of activities both here in Kampala and Fort portal in Western Uganda. The commemoration activities started on Thursday 18th June 2015 with a Community Dialogue for urban refugees at Old Kampala Primary School Grounds to raise awareness about torture even among the refugees and the need to stamp it out of Uganda. Other activities yet to be carried out include a public dialogueon this year’s local theme to be held at Hotel Africana, Kampala on Wednesday, 24th June 2015 and a regional public dialogue to be held in Fort portal on Thursday 25th June 2015 aimed at devising strategies to effectively implement the Anti-Torture law.
Commemoration activities will be crowned with peaceful processions to be concurrently heldhere in Kampala starting from the Chogm Square to Kampala Railway Grounds and another procession in Fort portal starting fromBarya Road to Booma Grounds on Friday, June 26, 2015.Both processions will end with main events at which speeches and other activities such as exhibitions and torture survivors’ clinics will also be carried out.
Still in commemoration of the Anti-Torture Day, three stakeholders’ meetings spearheaded by the Uganda Human Rights Commission will be held in Soroti, Entebbe and Mbarara on Monday 29th June 2015, to disseminate the Anti-Torture law to security personnel from the respective regions including the police, prisons, UPDF, RDCs, DISOs and others.
In conclusion therefore, I wish on behalf of our partners in the fight against torture to strongly urge government and all other actors to enhance their commitment to the elimination of torture in Uganda and particularly call upon government to protect, fulfill and uphold its duty to protect and promote human rights and human dignity for all
For God and My Country
Secretary to the Commission
Uganda Human Rights Commission
For and on Behalf of the Coalition Against Torture (CAT).