Uganda: Increase in torture cases despite a strong legal framework

Kampala, Uganda: military vehicle with military with machine guns in the city center © Shutterstock

Torture continues to be frequently practiced in Uganda, despite a robust legal framework prohibiting it. In most cases, torture happens at the hands of the police. The Covid-19 pandemic has caused a major increase in cases of torture by security forces.

In 2021, torture accounted for 37% of the cases of human rights abuses registered by the country’s human rights commission (UHRC). 280 complaints were placed against the police and the army for arbitrary arrests and 140 for torture. Our partner, the African centre for the treatment and rehabilitation of torture victims (ACTV), registered a total of 1,032 torture allegations from Ugandans reaching out to them for medical and legal assistance. The majority of complaints for torture point to the army or the police.

The enforcement of Covid-19-related measures was linked to a rise in allegations of torture. Between 2020 and 2021, the ACTV documented 166 cases of torture and ill-treatment related to the implementation of these health guidelines. Similarly, the UHRC received 124 complaints of torture out of the 164 cases of human rights violations registered in 2020.

The victims included activists and politicians who demanded social equality during the pandemic, as well as anyone who was caught breaching the rules. Law enforcement beat people up, shot at them, and committed other cruel acts in order to enforce the Covid-19 guidelines at all costs.

In their new report, the ACTV, the International Rehabilitation Council for Torture Victims (IRCT) and the OMCT invite the authorities to document all torture allegations and institute prompt criminal prosecutions against the perpetrators.

Read our report to the Committee against Torture