Uganda

Our Member in Uganda

African Centre for Treatment and Rehabilitation of Torture Victims (ACTV)

Uganda:

Thousands Tortured Every Year

Like many nations, no one knows just how many people are tortured, or are survivors of torture, in Uganda. The country hosts around 1.5 million refugees, and IRCT’s best data suggests that, on average, one in three refugees have suffered torture or ill-treatment. Ugandans themselves are tortured with appalling regularity. Official figures from the Uganda Human Rights Commission report some 1,500 people are tortured per year. But IRCT and other rights groups know that is a huge underestimate. The Uganda Police Force (UPF) and the Uganda People’s Defence Force (UPDF) are the leading perpetrators. 

In 2021, the IRCT supported our member in Uganda, the African Centre for Treatment and Rehabilitation of Torture Victims (ACTV), with advocacy towards the review of Uganda’s human rights record through the Universal Periodic Review (UPR) process at the UN in Geneva. The support included capacity development, support with writing the national advocacy report, and holding online meetings with UN diplomats in Geneva.

CREDIT: ACTV

CREDIT: ACTV

Watch:

Using Data to Fight Torture in Uganda

Find out more about IRCT’s Anti-Torture Database

ACTV’s Alex Kigoye had three big asks for the diplomats to include in their UPR recommendations to Uganda:

  • Police must follow the Prohibition and Prevention of Torture Act (PPTA) and investigate allegations of torture.
  • Government must follow the order by the Uganda Human Rights Commission and pay prompt compensation to torture survivors.
  • Government should ratify the Optional Protocol to CAT which authorises the Subcommittee on Prevention of Torture to make regular visits to places of detention.

CREDIT: Cedric Cruke

CREDIT: ACTV

In its National Report to the UPR, the Ugandan government said it had taken “effective measures to prevent any acts of torture or ill treatment, including a complaint and investigation procedure” set up under the PPTA. While the numbers (see below) offered by the State suggest steps towards accountability and reparation, in the experience of the IRCT much more will need to be done before the scourge of torture in Uganda is eradicated.

Read the 2022 UPR recommendations to Uganda, highlighted with priorities for IRCT and ACTV

Claims of State:

Steps Uganda Reported It Had Taken

  • 10,000 army officers trained in prevention of torture
  • 21 prison staff disciplined and punished 2018 – 2021
  • 10 officers tried and sentenced since 2018
  • Three billion Ugandan Shillings (EUR760,000) paid in compensation to victims of human rights violations 2016-2018

Source: Uganda National Report to UPR 2022

Special Project:

Livelihoods Support to Female Torture Survivors

In northern Uganda, most torture survivors treated by ACTV are women, many of whom were also widowed by the Lord’s Resistance Army and left without economic resources and financial stability. 

With a grant from IRCT, ACTV provided over 200 women with income generating projects. One group received maize seeds, training on farming and a milling machine to make flour out of the maize they grew. Another received ground nut seeds and oxen to plough their land. The results were extraordinary. ACTV observed a dramatic improvement in the socio-economic situation of these women, which in turn contributed to their individual and collective healing and helped their villages to thrive.

“We can now pay school fees, medicine, food and save up some money. It is really helping us to feel strong and proud again.”

A survivor describes the impact of ACTV’s rural livelihoods programme in the Gulu district of northern Uganda

More information

From Torture Journal

Healing and reintegration of former child soldiers: A relational resilience perspective

Background

UPR Briefing note: Torture and ill-treatment in Uganda