By Ben Musanje
The African Center for Rehabilitation of Treatment of Torture Victims – ACTV has recorded an increase of torture cases during the COVID-19 pandemic.
President Yoweri Museveni during a public address on TV has since asked the security forces to stop torturing citizens because they are enforcing COVID-19 regualtions.
Most of the cases recorded were inflicted by security agencies among the members of the public during the enforcement of Covid-19 security guidelines.
In an interview, Alex Kigoye the Programs Manager at ACTV says that they are compiling a report that will provide details of all tortured victims and in areas where these human rights violations were acted from.
Records so far show at least 170 cases of torture cases that happened during the Uganda presidential elections period last during this Covid-19 pandemic and were registered by ACTV between September 2020 and December 2020.
The country registered 900 cases of torture in 2020 resulting from the enforcement of the COVID-19 Standard Operating Procedures.
Kigoye explained that in previous five years before Covid-19 outbreaks in the country, males were the most tortured victims but in both the first and second lockdowns, more cases from women have been registered mostly those found flouting curfew hours and not wearing masks.
He says that the most torture cases during the lockdown are relating to issues to do with arbitrary arrests, police brutality, physical abuse, unlawful detentions and intimidation among others.
Kigoye says that the major problem they are facing now is that many people fear to report torture cases though they have hope that they will are to be encouraged to report the perpetuators by the recent Presidential address against human rights violations in the country.
He called on torture victims to report cases when they are still fresh to ensure that the details are still intact.
Early this month, the Uganda Human Rights Commission (UHRC) disclosed a total of 40 cases of human rights violations registered in the recent 42 days lockdown.
Idah Nakiganda Director Complaints, Investigations and Legal Services explained to journalists that Central region was recorded with the most number of cases amounting to 20 of the total number registered in the whole lockdown.
“Among the cases recorded and on investigations include allegations of torture, detention beyond 48 hours and the right to life in which the victims accused security agencies of violating their rights as a result of moving beyond curfew hours,” Nakiganda noted.
However, the UHRC Acting Chairperson Dr. Patricia Achan Okiria recommends to government to prioritize acquisition of a sizeable amount of vaccine doses and expedite implementation of the mass vaccination programme to allow the country go back to normalcy in order to control such human rights violations by the security personnel.
Imelda Nalweyiso, a resident of Busambaga village in Katabi, Wakiso district recalls the brutality she faced in the hands of the armed personnel on February 24, 2021 near the Uganda Air Force headquarters at Katabi along Entebbe road.
“It was a Wednesday around evening hours that I left from work at the Uganda Catholic Secretariat Nsambya in Kampala to my home of residence in Busambaga –Entebbe,” says Nalweyiso.
“I hired a bodaboda to Entebbe and upon reaching at a junction which crosses to Katabi Air Force and to Fire and Ice that proceeds to Busambaga, we found soldiers dressed in Army and Local Defense Unit (LDU) uniforms holding long big sticks beating whoever was ciming their way. They hit my head several times as the boda boda rider attempted to pass-by them,” Nalweyiso explains.
She says that the boda boda rider lost balance that made her fall on the ground and she started bleeding heavily but the Bodaboda man managed to escape from the soldiers.
Nalweyiso further explains that the soldiers detained at that station amidst her heavy bleeding and a Good Samaritan gentleman in a private vehicle, who requested to take her to the hospital for treatment, was threatened and left.
“It was until they (soldiers) left that I got help from another bodaboda rider who took me to the International Medical Center (IMC), but we found IMC closed and the security guard called an ambulance which later took me to the Doctors’ hospital Seguku where I got first aid,” Nalweyiso recalls.
She says she got a head operation at the International Hospital in Kampala on her bill.
The Uganda Peoples Defence Forces (UPDF) Deputy Spokesperson, Lt Col. Ronald Kakurungu says the army condone human rights violations and has never ordered any officer to brutalize civilians though they acknowledge that some officers tend to misbehave but such errant personnel have been whipped out, charged and prosecuted once reported.