By Moses Walubiri
The Uganda Human Rights Commission (UHRC) has named the police force, army and their affiliate organs as the worst human rights offenders in its 2011 report.
The report which was presented before the Human Rights Committee of parliament registered a 55% increase in torture-related abuses from 2010. This represents an increase from 276 to 428 cases in a spell of one year.
According to UHRC's head of the Right to Health Unit, Patricia Nduru, human rights abuses by security forces were 57% of the 1,231 violations registered.
These were in the form of what UHRC termed as torture or cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment, detention of suspects beyond the constitutional 48 hours before they are arraigned in courts of law and unlawful arrest or detention.
MPs heard that the report was premised on a visit to over 900 detention facilities around the country.
Complaints against police and the army, all related to torture, were 457 and 151 respectively.
Reacting to the report findings, police spokesperson, Judith Nabakoba faulted UHRC for highlighting generalities instead of noting specific incidents where police officers have been involved in human rights abuses.
"We want specific cases of abuses to be mentioned in the report. I cannot comment on generalities," Nabakoba said.
However, Prisons boss, Dr. Johnson Byabashaija said that warders in former local administration prisons could still be "roughly handling inmates since some of them have not been properly trained." Byabashaija, however, noted that warders who torture inmates are charged with assault.
The spokesperson of the Uganda People's Defense Forces (UPDF), Col. Felix Kulaigye was not readily available for press comment.
As the case has been in previous years, central region recorded the highest number of complaints, followed by Gulu and Moroto.
According to the Director Complaints, Investigations and Legal Services, Ruth Ssekindi, government has over sh4b in outstanding awards to torture victims, with sh699m awarded last year alone.
"We are concerned about the need to curb the increase in cases of torture because the trend has been on the rise since 2006," Ssekindu said.
Earlier, MPs Betty Namboze, Fred Ebil and Joy Atim called for the establishment of an independent commission into cases of torture by security forces.
Uganda ratified the United Nations convention against torture and the recent assent by the president to the Anti-Torture Bill, 2011 is aimed at domesticating this convention.
The Act makes security officers personally liable for incidents of torture committed while executing their duties.