[JURIST] The Ugandan government is responsible for an increase in torture, illegal detention and extrajudicial killing of its citizens, according to a report [text] released Wednesday by Human Rights Watch (HRW) [advocacy website]. An agency known as the Rapid Response Unit (RRU), which serves as Uganda’s violent crime police task force, is reported to have falsified confessions and utilized beatings with batons, glass bottles and metal sticks to extract information. The report also raises concerns involving journalistic freedom and violations of privacy and speech. The report’s summary describes the type of violence instituted by the RRU:
During more than 13 months of research, Human Rights Watch carried out over 100 interviews in regions where R.R.U is most active. … Drawing on interviews with victims of abuses, as well as current and former RRU employees, researchers documented serious human rights violations by RRU since its formal establishment in 2007. RRU officers routinely use unlawful force during arrest, including beating suspects and, in one instance that Human Rights Watch documented, shooting a handcuffed suspect. RRU personnel were allegedly responsible for at least six extrajudicial killings in 2010 alone, frequent use of torture during interrogations to extract confessions, and prolonged illegal and sometimes incommunicado detention of suspects at RRU headquarters in Kireka, Kampala, and other locations.
The report urges the government to comply with its own constitution [text, PDF] and international human rights law prohibiting torture, cruel, inhuman and degrading treatment. The new RRU commander has promised reform, installing a telephone line for the purpose of receiving complaints.
In 2009, HRW called on Uganda to end what it said was the use of torture and unlawful arrest [JURIST report] 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. JATT alleges that tactics such as concealing 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, were employed in the name of combating terrorism, despite being in violation of international law.