The UN General Assembly on 12th December 1997, by resolution 52/149 proclaimed every 26th June the United Nations International Day in support of victims of torture. The goal of the latter was for total eradication of torture and effective functioning of the Convention Against Torture and other Cruel, Inhuman, Degrading Treatment or Punishment (CAT). Internationally, the 1984 Convention against Torture and other forms of cruel, Inhuman Degrading Treatment or Punishment (UNCAT), 1948 Universal Declaration of Human Rights (UDHR) (Art. 5), 1966 International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR) (Art. 7) all outlaw all acts of torture and ill treatment. In 1998, the UN also adopted a manual for effective investigation and documentation of torture called the Istanbul protocol. Uganda being a state party to the UN and also the African Charter has gone ahead to not only sign but also ratify these instruments by putting in place a comprehensive legal framework; Article 24 and 44 of the 1995 constitution of Uganda, the Prevention and Prohibition of Torture Act, 2012, the 2017 Regulations to the Anti-Terrorism Act, 2002 (Section 21(e), Section 24(4) of the Police Act Cap 303, and the Human Rights Enforcement Act 2019 to further criminalise torture.
2. Situational Analysis
This year’s commemoration comes at a time when the Parliament Committee of Human Rights in February to March 2022 launched an inquiry into the state of human rights and allegations of torture in the country. Several human rights reports cite the continued violation of the right to Freedom from Torture and Cruel, Inhumane, Degrading Treatment or Punishment in Uganda despite a legal framework in place.
Torture is on the rise. Statistics show that freedom from torture and ill treatment under Articles 24 and 44 of the 1995 Constitution of the Republic of Uganda are violated most in Uganda .
On average, ACTV registers more than 1,000 cases of torture allegations requiring treatment, rehabilitation and legal support. The statistics are not any different from the Uganda Human Rights Commission (UHRC). From 2015 to 2020, a total of 1,803 torture complaints were registered: 345 complaints in 2015, 380 in 2016, 306 in 2017, 346 in 2018, 299 in 2019 and 127 in 2020. The UPDF were implicated in 119 complaints in the latter year.
In 2020, the Uganda Human Rights Commission registered 308 (49%) complaints of torture out of 627 human rights violations in the year. In the same period, ACTV registered and offered treatment and rehabilitation services to 960 (532 Male and 428 Female) victims of alleged torture and other cruel and ill treatment. Perpetrators were from security agencies including the UPDF, UPF as well as private individuals, including local leaders, Resident District Commissioners, and politicians. The highest number of documented cases of alleged torture by ACTV totalling to 323 were of persons in the category of 18-35 years of age - which is the most productive age bracket. Regrettably, this negatively impacts on the national development agenda of social economic integration and transformation.
In 2021, ACTV treated and offered rehabilitation services to 1,202 (684 Male and 518 Female) of who 510 were by security agencies (139 Police, 364 UPDF, 20 LDUs, 10 SFC and 185 by private individuals).
The 2021 general elections were marred with torture allegations. From January 2021 to February 2022, ACTV offered treatment and rehabilitation services to 109 cases of torture arising from election related violence. Out of the 109 cases, 15 cases were against private individuals especially politicians and the remaining 94 cases were against security agencies, and local leaders. Besides, the implementation of the COVID19 Standard Operating Procedures and directives that should be applauded, regrettably resulted in alleged torture and ill treatment. The Uganda Human Rights Commission received 124 complaints of torture out of 164 complaints registered during the first lockdown in 2020, while ACTV has from January 2021 to February 2022 received and treated 116 cases arising from torture during the implementation of the COVID19 guidelines and directives by law enforcement and security agencies.
3.1 To advocate for legal reforms for a torture free environment.
3.2 To raise awareness among duty bearers and rights holders about the value of timely reporting and the benefits of professional documentation in fostering investigation and access to justice.
4. Implementing Partners
This activity will be jointly implemented by UN Human Rights, Uganda Human Rights Commission (UHRC) and ACTV.
4.1 Radio Talk Show
A radio talk show will be hosted on a locally based radio station– with a panel of three representatives of OHCHR, UHRC and ACTV regional offices. The aim is to localise the commemoration of the International Day in Support of Victims of Torture and sensitize the communities to understand the concept of torture so that they can report cases of torture whenever they are identified. The activity will be carried out on Friday 24 June 2022.
4.2 Public Dialogue
The main commemoration activity will be a half-day public dialogue in Gulu City. The dialogue will focus on the discussion points highlighted under the objectives section above. The aim is to target and invite about 100 participants from the Justice, Law and Order Sector (JLOS), including key civil society organizations.
4.3 Communication, outreach, including social media
In addition to the radio talk show, OHCHR will coordinate with the key partners to implement an online media campaign particularly on social media platforms – Twitter, Facebook and LinkedIn under various #hashtags – #stoptorture, #stoptortureug22, #threat #awful #beaten among many. Field-based journalists from a few media outlets, including online media will be invited to the commemoration event, specifically to engage with and conduct interviews with representatives of the key partners with the aim of publishing the interviews.
The event will be featured on all OHCHR social media platforms and partner organisations will be encouraged to do the same. Quotable quotes, photos and messages on torture will be key content for the media pages, including a web story. A team of 6 journalists comprising 2 for TV, one for online, and three for print and digital newspapers will be invited to provide coverage for the public dialogue. A modest transport refund will be provided for the media team. PI will coordinate the team of journalists for engagement and interviews with the representatives of partner organisations on a set of issues aimed at enhancing the theme – stop torture in Uganda.