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Torture has no place in a civilised and democratic society – Chairperson

Published On July 1, 2024  |  by UHRC

The Chairperson Uganda Human Rights Commission (UHRC) Hon. Mariam Wangadya has encouraged every citizen to report cases of torture whenever they manifest. While presiding over as a Chief Guest/Chief Walker at the Joint Commemoration of the UN Day in Support of Torture Victims on Wednesday (June 26th) at Railway Grounds in Kampala, the Chairperson noted that torture is prevalent in our homes and communities.

“We have heard instances where children are subjected to severe beatings disguised as punishment, housemaids being denied food or having their earnings deducted over small misstates and bodaboda riders or fishermen being stripped and bathed in the open because society thinks they do not want to bathe, among others. All these instances cause extreme physical pain, mental anguish and humiliation and greatly impact on one’s human dignity and self-worth,” she said. 

She said society has also normalised cruel, inhuman and degrading treatment or punishment that is why many will justify mob action for thefts and other corporal punishment in schools and homes.

“We call upon the people of Uganda, parents, leaders, stakeholders in law enforcement and the justice law and order sector to take a zero tolerance stand against torture in all its forms. Let each one of us play a role in combating torture. Torture is a crime. Every citizen should instantly report to police instances of torture as they occur,” she said.

The Chairperson of Uganda Electoral Commission, Justice Simon Byabakama Mugenyi who was represented by Member of the Commission Hon. Caroline Beinamaryo said the theme for this year’s commemoration Torture-free communities for all and by all is timely and relevant. 

“It emphasizes that each one of us has a role to play to ensure that no one suffers torture of any kind; be it in our homes or at workplace or while undertaking any activity. It is for this reason for example that the Electoral Commission emphasizes the need to promote a peaceful and violent free electoral process as we head towards 2025/2026 general campaigns/elections,” She said.

She said her Commission calls upon the UHRC to embark on massive civic education because it is vital for promoting democratic values and helps citizens understand democratic principles.

The Director of Public Prosecution Justice Jane Frances Abodo who was also represented by Assistant DPP Ms. Barbara Kawuma said the Office of the Director of Public Prosecution (ODPP) plays a crucial role in ensuring the proper functioning and administration of the criminal justice system in Uganda. 

“As we are all aware, the 1995 Constitution of Uganda mandates the DPP to direct and control criminal investigations in Uganda on behalf of the general public and survivors of torture and the Prevention and Prohibition of Torture Act, is among the several other laws that enjoins the DPP to prosecute offenders, including perpetuators of torture,” she said.

She said they have put in place mechanisms and are trying to establish mechanisms that can help them effectively prosecute cases of torture. 

“We have a unit in place that specifically handles or coordinates investigation or prosecution cases of human rights involving torture. We have collaborated with a number of agencies here like the UHRC ACTV and developed a checklist for prosecutors and investigators to guide them on conducting effective investigation and pick out evidence that will be sufficient to sustain charges of torture,” she said.

“We are aware that some of the torture victims are unaware of their rights and therefore do not report some of these things from the police. Some of them expect little or no protection from the state agencies some of them have been tortured by the same agencies and therefore are reluctant to go and report to the same agencies where their tormentors are from.”

On his part, the President Uganda Law Society (ULS) Mr. Bernard Oundo said Freedom from torture cannot be separated from other rights. 

“If we are going to have a torture-free community, we must make sure other rights are progressively realised. As ULS we continue to appeal to government and stakeholders here that you must be able to respect the other fundamental human rights under Chapter Four because those other rights have a bearing on the observance of freedom from torture,” he said.

The Board Member African Centre for Treatment and Rehabilitation of Torture Victims (ACTV) which was a key partner in organizing this event called for the enactment of the Witness Protection Bill as one of the firm steps towards combating torture. 

The event kicked off with a procession from railway grounds towards the Uganda Broadcasting Corporation Roundabout then to statistics house and slopped past Theatre Labonita to Kampala/Jinja Road and back to railway grounds past former Nandos. It also had a side-line exhibition/psych-social legal camp mounted by the ULS, Justice Centres Uganda, UHRC, Torture Survivors, ACTV among other organization/agencies.     

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