By Josephine Maseruka
Torture tops the list of human rights abuses registered by the Uganda Human Rights Commission in 2008.
According to the annual report, released yesterday, torture accounted for 314 out of 1,060 complaints registered by the Commission â€“ or almost one third. It replaced child abuse and neglect, which topped the list in 2007.
The 185-page report on human rights in Uganda was released at the Imperial Royale Hotel in Kampala.
Unlike the previous years where security agencies ranked highest in human rights abuses, private individuals were the majority respondents in 2008, with 303 cases against them. They are followed by the Police (237 cases) and the army (148 cases).
â€œPrivate individual remained the highest because they were mainly responsible for the violation of the rights of the child, particularly the right to be cared for and the right to maintenance,â€ the report read.
The new chairperson, Meddie Kaggwa, while reading his maiden report, appealed to the Government to speed up the Bill on the prohibition and prevention of torture so that individual perpetuators can be exposed and punished.
The Human Rights Commission wants institutional liability for the acts of public officers. It also wants the Ministry of Justice to ensure that victims of human rights abuses are promptly compensated.
Out of the 58 complaints the commission handled, 31 were on torture, accounting for sh439m of the total awards of sh593m in 2008.
The report shows 18 cases of human sacrifice in 2008, an 83% increase compared to the 2006 Police records when only four cases were registered. It noted that the victims were mainly children because of their vulnerability.
The Commission urged the Government to implement the witchcraft Act to facilitate prosecution of such crimes.
â€œParliament should amend the Penal Code Act so as to include a provision on possession of human tissue or body parts and to provide for the necessary penalties,â€ the report said.
In addition, Parliament should pass a national policy to guide and regulate the operations of traditional doctors and herbalists, it recommended.
The Human Rights Commission noted some violations of the freedom of the media, including arbitrary arrests, harassment, intimidation and detention of some journalists, but said over-all press freedom had improved.
It also observed that some provisions in the subsidiary laws contravened the Constitution such as the law on sedition and sections of the Press and Journalists Act.
The report raised particular concerns about the Interception of Communications Bill 2007, arguing that it threatens the right to privacy, gives excessive powers to the minister in charge of security and has a broad definition of national security.
The Bill should include some â€œincontrovertible safeguardsâ€ to ensure that the powers for granting a warrant of interception are not abused, the Commission said.
It should also ensure that unauthorised persons do not receive, process and use intercepted communication for private reasons such as in marital conflicts.
On the Anti-Corruption Bill, pending in Parliament, the Commission noted that it should cover aspects of corruption in the private sector as well as in political parties.