More effort needed to eradicate torture

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Godfrey Dhikusoka, a prisoner who was tortured allegedly by a Prisons officer at Kirinya Prison

By Andrew Masinde

Torture affects people’s personalities and denies the inherent dignity of the human being.

Despite the absolute prohibition of torture under international law, it still persists in all regions of the world.

To ensure the eradication of torture, in 1997, the United Nations General Assembly proclaimed June 26 as the United Nations International Day in Support of Victims of Torture.

In Uganda, the Uganda Human Rights Commission (UHRC), together with the Coalition Against Torture in Uganda (CAT), chaired by the African Centre for Treatment and Rehabilitation of Torture Victims (ACTV), the UN Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights-Uganda and other partners, will hold joint commemoration activities of the International Day in Support of Victims of Torture.

Acting chairperson for UHRC Dr Amooti Wa Irumba Katebalirwe says this year’s commemoration will be held under the theme: Speak Out Against Torture During and After COVID-19.

Katebalirwe says in Uganda, the Commission and partners will join the rest of the world to mark the day as a way of raising awareness about the vice, while recognising its effects on the victims/survivors.

“We use the occasion to call on the duty-bearers who are mainly the Government and the rights-holders — the public — on the other hand, to recommit to the fight against torture and to punish its perpetrators, while recognising that this has to be a concerted effort,” he said.

Katebalirwe says although torture has been globally recognised as an impediment to the enjoyment of human rights with both physical and psychological effects on the victims, it is regrettably a persistent phenomenon.

In Uganda, torture continues to rear its head and is still on the rise. This is indicated in records, which show that from 2015 to 2018, the UHRC handled and provided redress for 1,377 cases of torture. Its partner ACTV provided treatment and rehabilitation to 6,548 torture survivors (4,606 Male and 1,942 female).

“UHRC has received a total of 238 (203 from male and 35 from female) torture complaints since the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic period to date. Out of that total, 150 were reported against the Uganda Police Force, 83 against the army and five against the Uganda Prisons Service,” Katebalirwe says. CLICK HERE FOR MORE ON THIS STORY

Torture cases drop in lockdown

When the COVID-19 pandemic broke out in Uganda, several measures were put in place to control the spread.

While enforcing the presidential directives countrywide, many cases of torture allegations started to emerge, despite the many laws put in place to stop it.

The Uganda Human Rights Commission (UHRC), together with the Coalition Against Torture in Uganda (CAT), chaired by the African Centre for Treatment and Rehabilitation of Torture Victims (ACTV), the UN Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights in Uganda and other partners, are using the International Day in Support of Victims of Torture to laud the improvements by security agencies in enforcing the COVID- 19 guidelines.

An event recently organised in support of victims of torture

This year’s commemoration is being held under the theme: Speak Out Against Torture During and After COVID-19. Dr Amooti Wa Irumba Katebalirwe, the acting chairperson for UHRC, says the trend is a departure from the earlier reports of brutality against people during the lockdown.

“We laud the improvement by security agencies in observing human rights during the ongoing partial lockdown period.

This is mainly as a result of interventions by President Yoweri Museveni, who directed security agencies to refrain from acts of brutality against citizens during enforcement of the measures,” Katebalirwe said. CLICK HERE FOR MORE ON THIS STORY

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