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Uganda: HRW calls to end 'torture' at detention centers

March 22, 2022

Human Rights Watch has published an extensive report alleging torture of detainees at "illegal" detention centers. Many of them are critics of the government.

A man shows a scar on his arm
Ugandan author Kakwenza Rukirabashaija says he was tortured when he was forcibly disappeared for 14 daysImage: Hajarah Nalwadda/AP Photo/picture alliance

The Ugandan government should close illegal detention centers and bring to account officers responsible for torturing hundreds of detainees, the NGO Human Rights Watch (HRW) demanded in a report published Tuesday. 

The HRW report detailed the kind of abuses that detainees, mainly government critics and opposition supporters, have been subjected to.

"Human Rights Watch calls on the government of Uganda to immediately close all so-called safehouses and other unauthorized detention centers," it said.

HRW also called on Ugandan authorities to release all detainees or "bring them promptly before a court to be charged."

What abuse did HRW find in Uganda?

The 62-page report documents forced disappearances, arbitrary arrests, and unlawful detention and torture at the hands of Ugandan officials from 2018 until 2021. 

The group interviewed 51 people, including dozens of former detainees, government officials, opposition figures and human rights activists, to account for a full picture of the practices at these "unauthorized" detention centers. 

Former detainees said security officials went to homes and workplaces and abducted people in unmarked vehicles, sometimes even at gunpoint.  

Others described grave physical abuse and sexual assault, with reports of injections with unknown substances or electric shocks. One man said he was burned and his fingernails were pulled out.

Many people who either disappeared during run-up to the presidential election of January 2021, when crackdowns on dissidents increased, remain unaccounted for. President Yoweri Museveni has ruled Uganda with an iron fist since 1986, and was reelected in 2021

"Urgent steps are needed to help victims, to hold abusive security agents to account, and to end their specter of impunity and injustice," said Oryem Nyeko, Africa researcher at HRW.

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rm/wmr (Reuters, AFP)