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OPINION: Torture is an Old Tormentor

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MORGAN MUHINDO

Social media is awash with photos of Ugandans that have been tortured in the government prison facility of Nalufenya located in Jinja Busoga region.

Torture is a historical tool that has been employed by both dictators and democracies, to date; scholars and policy makers have put forth two claims for why torture is used by democracies in the name of counter-terrorism: interrogational torture and deterrent torture.

Interrogational torture aims at extracting information and deterrent torture aims at discouraging similar acts of terrorism by raising the cost of engaging in this form of violence.

The empirical support for these claims, however, is lacking and unfounded because any information obtained through torture is inadmissible in courts of law instead it can be used against the perpetrators by virtue of section 14(1) and (2) of THE PREVENTION AND PROHIBITION OF TORTURE ACT, 2012 .

The 1995 Constitution of Uganda guarantees freedom from torture and other cruel, inhuman and degrading treatment, while in 2012 The Prevention and Prohibition of Torture Act was enacted giving effect to an important 2011 UPR review recommendations.

In addition, Uganda is a party to all other major international human rights instruments, which outlaws torture and other forms of ill-treatment in any circumstances to all human beings.

Therefore torture should not be entertained in such a legal frame work. In some states like Chile acts of human rights abuses, persecution of opponents, political repression were committed by the Chilean armed forces and the Police, government agents and civilians in the service of security agencies, during the dictatorship of Augusto Pinochet  from September 11, 1973, until March 11, 1990.

In Uganda the police has been at the pinpoint of every report for the acts of torture against people, the latest being the ‘fireflies’ incidence of Nalufenya among the many Government facilities where this vice is practiced.

We have a very good Act of parliament against torture which can be used to fight it, in and outside the Institutions, The law creates personal liability and vicarious liability against the persons torture, the superiors are vicariously liable for the acts as such authorised by them or committed with their knowledge.

Under the police Act the IGP and AIGP are the heads of the force and the force works with the Ministry of Internal Affairs.

Therefore the acts of torture done by the police can be investigated against, the juniors and the senior officers like Kayihura and all the superior officers, who are aware and have authorised these acts.

However the biggest challenge falls on the reporting and investigatory role, the police force cannot by all means investigate its self without prejudice.

So there is need of setting up an independent investigatory body by the Minister by invoking his powers under section 24 of the Act as the only way of avoiding the perpetrators from investigating themselves.

The other challenge lies on the restrictions on access to prison facilities more especially by the Non state Actors or NGOs; these should be given easy access to these facilities to monitor both the standards of the prisons and other human rights violations such as torture.

There is need to Set up a mandatory compensation policy to ensure that relevant government institutions act as principal points for paying out compensation awards to torture victims and establish and adequately funded rehabilitation programme.

Train police investigation officers and state attorneys on the provisions of the Prevention and Prohibition of Torture Act, 2012 to ensure effective application of the Act.

Ratify the Optional Protocol to the UN Convention against Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment, 1984 to allow for free and independent inspections in places of detention.

Ugandans deserve to be protected against all inhumane treatment, this tool is being used to suppress dissents and instill fear among the Ugandans.

Morgan Muhindo is a Kampala-based political analyst

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