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Inside the UHRC’s new campaign against torture and kidnapping

The Uganda Human Rights Commission (UHRC) this afternoon announced their renewed plan to fight what they called torture and abduction of citizens highlighting several measures on the table available to explore.

The Uganda Human Rights Commission (UHRC) this afternoon announced their renewed plan to fight what they called torture and abduction of citizens highlighting several measures on the table available to explore.

The rights body says they want to invoke all possible laws within the Ugandan constitution and the Prevention and Prohibitions law which help to bring the perpetrators to book and hold them accountable for their actions.

Sources within the commission who did not want to be named in this story for them to be able to speak freely informed this publication that there is growing pressure from the rights bodies from across Africa to see whether the Ugandan commission stands for the people.

Last week the opposition held a conference in Nairobi, the capital of Kenya demanding for accountability of the people that were killed during the November 18-19, 2020 when sporadic riots erupted across the country upon the arrest of the National Unity Platform (NUP) presidential candidate, Robert Kyagulanyi alias Bobi Wine.

Following the incidents that cost 54 Ugandan’s lives while more than 1300 supporters were arrested, according to the government list presented in parliament in April last year.

Following this meeting, sources say that a telephone call came in from Mr Bernard Mogesa the Chief Executive Officer (CEO) of Kenya National Commission on Human Rights mounting pressure on Ms Mariam Wangadya about what they were doing about the complaints of human rights violations in the country.

“There is pressure, there is a need to show that there is something being done and that is why you will see all these statements move towards the same,” the source said, describing the chairperson of UHRC appearing tense after the call.

Last week, UHRC wrote to the NUP party asking them to furnish them with details of the missing people who have since been reported about in the papers and other media platforms. In response, this publication understands that the party lodged a petition and list of 25 people some of whom had been missing for over two years.

Jamshid Kavuma, Bobi Wine’s bodyguard.

In another effort to make things working in the commission, highly placed sources said that a meeting of UHRC and security agencies including Chieftaincy for Military Intelligence (CMI), police, Uganda People’s Defense Forces (UPDF) about a fortnight ago at the CMI offices in Mbuya portrayed the men in uniform having their hands also tied.

“They are held between the rock and a hard place. They are saying we are seeing the things happening in the country but what can we do?,” the source said, quoting one of the security bosses.

Brig Gen Felix Kulayigye the UPDF spokesperson in an interview for this story was non-committal to confirm the meeting but emphasised that there have been many of such meetings.

“We have always told the people of UHRC and the media that the government does not abduct people, they arrest but the methodology changes from person to person,” Brig Gen Kulayigye said adding, “When we meet with UHRC we want to see what can be done because some of the people that these politicians are presenting can be accounted for because we don’t have them.”

NUP leaders say that various interventions have been met with deaf ears in parliament and in the different courts of law.

Mr George Musisi, one of the lawyers of the victims says, “In many cases we file for habeas corpus but they are not respected by the government including re-arresting some of the victims that have been granted bail. The UHRC has received many of these complaints but nothing has been done.”

Sources say that it has been a fight within the commission to try and show impact, “even if it means stepping on the toes of a few government officials.”

Mr Cryspin Kaheru, the commissioner of the UHRC says that there are intentions to have many investigated cases worked on and given due attention which is why they have moved to make more forms.

“Already the Human Rights Committee in parliament have delivered on their mandate, they have reviewed our reports for the past three years and the findings are supposed to be tabled on the floor of parliament for debate,” Mr Kaheru said.

He added, “We are going to invoke Article 44 of the constitution as well as the prevention and prohibition Act.”

Both Articles, 24 and 44 of the Ugandan Constitution as seen under chapter four of the preventions and Prohibitions Act spells out the different non-derogable rights including freedom from torture, cruel, inhuman and degrading treatment or punishment.

The other freedom include freedom from slavery or servitude, the right to fair hearing, and. the right to an order of habeas corpus.

Section 53 (2-4) “The Commission may, if satisfied that there has been an infringement of a human right or freedom, order the release of a detained or restricted person; b. payment of compensation; or c. any other legal remedy or redress. 3. A person or authority dissatisfied with an order made by the Commission under clause (2) of this article, has a right to appeal to the High Court.”

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