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Celebrations for UN Day of Torture Survivors launched

By Vision Reporter

Added 19th June 2015 02:26 PM

Celebrations to mark the United Nations Day of Torture Survivors was on Thursday June 18, launched at Old Kampala Primary School with a call on government and civil society organisations to work together to raise public awareness about national and international anti-torture laws.

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Celebrations to mark the United Nations Day of Torture Survivors was on Thursday June 18, launched at Old Kampala Primary School with a call on government and civil society organisations to work together to raise public awareness about national and international anti-torture laws.

By Mathias Mazinga

Celebrations to mark the United Nations Day of Torture Survivors was on Thursday June 18, launched at Old Kampala Primary School with a call on government and civil society organisations to work together to raise public awareness about national and international anti-torture laws.


Several speakers also called for sustained synergies between state and non-state actors to advocate for full implementation of anti-torture laws.


(L-R)UNHCR Community Service boss, Elsa Bokhre, Samuel Nsubuga and UHRC's, Ruth Ssekindi at the function

Delivering his speech during the function, the Chief Executive of the African Centre for Treatment and Rehabilitation of Torture Victims, Samuel Herbert Nsubuga said: “Many legal practitioners and law enforcement officers lack adequate knowledge of the anti-torture law, which undermines the spirit of the same law. We have here many refugees and forced migrants, who come from countries like DR Congo, Somalia, South Sudan, Rwanda, Burundi, Eriteria  and Ethiopia.”

“Many of these have already been victimised by torture in their home countries. Every year we organise avenues of dialogue with communities to embrace torture prevention due to the overwhelming number of refugee torture survivors in urban areas.  We educate refugees on available intervention services, including physical and psychological treatment, and legal aid. We also sensitise the law enforcement officers about the anti-torture laws.”

Uganda Human Rights Commission’s Director of Conflicts, Investigations and Legal Services, Ruth Ssekindi, asked members of the public to seek legal redress whenever they experienced torture.

She said that the constitution of Uganda criminalised torture, regardless of whether it was committed by state officials or individual Ugandans.


Foundation for Rehabilitation members performing at the function

“Torture earns its perpetrator 15 years, or a life sentence, if it is aggravated. Aggravated torture is where the victim is below 15 years, where the victim contracts HIV/AIDS as a result of torture, or where sex is used as a weapon of torture.”

“Uganda Human Rights Commission is a constitutional body for protection and promotion of human rights. We receive complaints, investigate respective cases and also create public awareness about human rights. We also review laws and also make recommendations. You are at liberty to come and report, if you feel tortured.”

The Community Services Officer of UNHCR, Elsa Bokhre, who was the Guest of Honour, asked the refugees to appreciate the generosity and hospitality of the government of Uganda.

“In other countries, refugees don’t even get out of their houses. Let’s appreciate this opportunity and appreciate the Uganda government. You should know that the degree of employment competition here is high. In any case, if you have the required qualifications in terms of skills and employment, you can compete for the jobs. Otherwise you can access financial credits that can help you to start up businesses, to be self-sustaining. In Kampala we don’t provide accommodation and food. But most importantly, you need to be equipped with knowledge of your rights and obligations, because knowledge is power.”

The Programme Manager, Gender and Sexuality at Refugee Law Project, Onen David Ongwech, called for the translation of anti-torture law literature into local languages as a strategy to boost public awareness about anti-torture laws.

The Kampala Metropolitan Head of Community Policing, Anatoli Muleterwa, also advised the torture survivor victims to report any law-enforcement officer who violates their rights.

He revealed that individual Police officers, who deliberately torture people, now take full responsibility of what they have done, which is why they can nolonger hide and the principle of vicarious liability.

Muleterwa, nonetheless asked the refugees to be law-abiding, in order to enjoy their privileges.

“Some of you have taken to the streets as vendors, which is against the laws of KCCA. Some of you also deal in counterfeit things. In such circumstances, the laws of the land will not protect you. You should also be mindful to move with your documents. There is no way we will know that you are a refugee, unless we have looked at your identification documents.”

The dialogue was also graced by the Protection Officer of the UNHCR, Francis Ssemwogerere, who assured the refugees that they all had a right to have travel documents.

During the interactive dialogue, the drama-group called Foundation for Rehabilitation, which comprises refugees/asylum seekers from DR Congo, gave a musical and drama entertainment, which highlighted the pathetic conditions and vicious problems of urban refugees.

The climax of the celebrations for the UN Day of Torture Victims will be on June 26.
 

Celebrations for UN Day of Torture Survivors launched

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