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Rights group urges Uganda to end torture and illegal arrests
Rights group urges Uganda to end torture and illegal arrests

[JURIST] Advocacy group Human Rights Watch (HRW) [advocacy website] has called on Uganda to end what it said was the use of torture and unlawful arrest [text, PDF; press release] by the country's Joint Anti-Terrorism Task Force (JATT). According to HRW, JATT engaged in 106 documented cases of illegal or prolonged detentions between August 2008 and February 2009, and employed torture methods against both Lord's Resistance Army (LRA) [GlobalSecurity backgrounder] rebels and political opponents of the government. HRW said in its report released Wednesday that the JATT used the tactics in the name of combating terrorism, but was still violating international law:

The manner in which JATT carries out its operations-deliberate efforts to conceal arresting officers' identities and affiliations, disorienting suspects by blindfolding them while in transport, failing to inform detainees of the reason for their arrest, long-term incommunicado detention, and interrogations involving torture-reflects what appears to be a flawed policy on alleged rebel or terrorist activity, which includes committing serious violations of national and international law.

The group called on President Museveni [official profile] to adhere to his obligation under the UN Convention Against Torture and Cruel, Inhuman and Degrading Treatment [convention text] to investigate possible instances of torture, and urged the country to follow proper criminal procedures as mandated by the Uganda Constitution [text, PDF].

Prior calls by human rights groups for Uganda government officials to address the situation have gone unheeded. Although the rebel group LRA was expelled from Uganda in 2005, military conflict continues in the Karamoja region of the country, creating a volatile situation [US State Department report] to which JATT is responding. In its 2008 report on human rights [JURIST report], the UK Foreign and Commonwealth office cited counter-terrorism efforts as one of the leading causes of human rights abuses.