Uganda Rights Officials Note Little Government Action on Abuses

Last year, Uganda’s Ministry of Gender, Labor and Social Development worked with Parliament to enact and implement the Children Amendment Act, which prohibits corporal punishment in schools.

Of 93 recommendations made by the Uganda Human Rights Commission, this is the only one that government departments have fully complied with in the past five years.

“If there is no compliance and we keep on making the same recommendations and piling new ones and nothing is being done, that means the violations that we have assessed and recommendations we have made to address those violations are not implemented,” said Katebalirwe Amooti Wa Irumba, who chairs the commission. “The violations will continue. In fact, they will become even worse.”

Chief among those concerns, the commission said, was the issue of torture by security forces.

The commission said it documented more than 1,000 cases of torture by police and 275 by the army from 2012 to 2016. The alleged abuses ranged from electric shocks and beatings to mock executions and the denial of food to detainees. These things occurred despite Uganda’s enactment of the Prevention and Prohibition of Torture Act of 2012.

“We shall do whatever is possible to make sure that we stop this act, and any officer who is involved in torture … will be arrested and taken to courts of law,” said Asan Kasingye, police spokesperson.

Other recommendations from the commission included a minimum wage mandate and categorization of skin treatments, lotions, sunglasses and hats that are appropriate for persons with albinism as essential drugs provided free of charge.

The Human Rights Commission is itself a government agency and has raised the issue of noncompliance with parliament.

The chairperson of the parliamentary human rights committee told VOA that lawmakers would hold hearings with government departments to find out why they were not making progress on the commission’s recommendations.

Colonel Shaban Bantariza, the deputy government spokesman, said funding was a problem.

“We are slow, not because we don’t like, but we can’t afford to make the necessary increments,” Bantariza said, citing such “competing priorities” as transportation, education and health spending.

The parliamentary committee said it would also look at what the Human Rights Commission called Uganda’s unmet international obligations.

For example, the commission said ratifying the Optional Protocol to the U.N. Convention Against Torture would provide for additional mechanisms to prevent torture and ill treatment by obliging Uganda to open up all detention sites to scrutiny at both domestic and international levels

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