Have you ever been tortured? Has your relative or friend ever been tortured? Have you seen someone being tortured?
Whether your answer is in the affirmative or negative, this might be an interesting read for you.
It is provided under Article 24 of the Constitution of the Republic of Uganda that no person shall be subjected to any form of torture or cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment. Under Article 44 (d), the right to freedom from torture, inhuman and degrading treatment or punishment is one of the four nonderogable rights in addition to the right to freedom from slavery or servitude, the right to fair hearing and the right to an order of habeas corpus.
Section 2 of the Prevention and Prohibition of Torture Act, 2012 defines torture as any act or omission, by which severe pain or suffering whether physical or mental, is intentionally inflicted on a person by or at the instigation of or with the consent or acquiescence of any person whether a public official or other person acting in an official or private capacity for such purposes as obtaining information or a confession from the person or any other person; punishing that person for an act he or she or any other person has committed, or is suspected of having committed or of planning to commit; among other things.
Torture, according to the Second Schedule to the Prevention and Prohibition of Torture Act, 2012 takes both the physical and psychological forms meaning that it may not be about the people we see being tortured but also includes what people or their close relatives and friends experience within their minds as a result of grave acts or information of torture.
It is disturbing to note that despite the existence of this law and the regulations, we still grapple with the realities of torture, inhuman and degrading treatment and punishment. Much as the law provides for individual liability for torture, little has been done to hold individual officers accountable for their acts amounting to torture. It should be high time that we saw more strict measures taken against errant officers and have them brought to book so as to check the ever rising cases of torture and cruel, inhuman and degrading treatment of persons.
It may be recalled that annually on June 26, Uganda joins the rest of the world to commemorate the World Day against Torture. Over the years, one of the items that have not been tackled well is that relating to awards for compensation as given by Uganda Human Rights Commission for victims of torture. These awards have remained but on paper. The figure is exorbitant and overwhelming as a result of which, government may need to put in place a clear strategy on how everyone deserving compensation shall be granted the much awaited remedy.
By way of conclusion, let me emphasise that each of us is a human rights defender and that the promotion and protection of of human rights and fundamental freedoms starts with each of us as individuals and families before it spreads to the communities and nation at large. All security agencies are called upon to understand and apply the human rights based approach to implementation of their work or mandates. It cannot be doubted that if everyone can play their role and become their neighbor’s keeper, we will go a long way in fighting and eliminating torture from homes, community, country and world at large.
The writer is a human rights lawyer;
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