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Uganda: Government Urged to Enact Bill on Prohibition of Torture

(Sept. 28, 2010) The United Nations Special Rapporteur on Torture, Manfred Nowak, recently called upon the Ugandan government to enact the Prohibition and Prevention of Torture Bill, 2009 (Milton Olupot, UN Expert Wants Torture Bill Passed, THE NEW VISION (Sept. 26, 2010),

Similar appeals were made in 2009 by the African Union (AU) Human Rights Commission and the Ugandan Human Rights Commission (UHRC). On August 27, 2009, Catherine Dupe Atoki, Commissioner of the AU Commission on Human and Peoples’ Rights, had urged the Ugandan government to stop using torture as a tool for extracting information from suspects and called upon all African nations that have yet to criminalize torture to do so immediately (Hanibal Goitom, AU Human Rights Commissioner Tells Government to Stop Torturing Suspects, GLOBAL LEGAL MONITOR [GLM] (Sept. 2, 2009), // In addition, the UHRC, with the release of its annual report for 2008 showing the rise in the use of torture and human sacrifice, made a similar appeal to the government a few weeks later (Hanibal Goitom, Report Says Torture and Human Sacrifice on the Rise, GLM (Oct. 15, 2009), //

The bill, which is currently under consideration by the Ugandan Parliament, defines what constitutes torture. Although the Constitution provides a provision on freedom from torture and inhumane and degrading treatment or punishment as a non-derogable fundamental right, it does not define the term (art. 24, Constitution of the Republic of Uganda, Embassy of the Republic of Uganda in the United States website, (last visited Sept. 27, 2010)). Under the bill, torture includes any act or omission through which severe physical or mental pain is intentionally inflicted upon a person for various purposes, including to obtain information or as punishment (§3, Prohibition and Prevention of Torture Bill, 2009, Association for the Prevention of Torture website, (last visited Sept. 27, 2010)). The bill provides that acts such as blindfolding; sleep deprivation; prolonged interrogation; and inflicting shame by stripping a person naked, shaving them, or parading them in public amount to torture (id.).

The bill provides for an absolute prohibition on torture and imposes harsh penalties for the crime of torture. The prohibition on torture may not be suspended under any circumstance, including war, internal political chaos, or public emergency (id. §4). An offense of torture is punishable with 15 years of imprisonment and/or a fine of UGX1,200,000 (about US$535). Aggravated torture, in which the offender commits an aggravating act (including using or threatening to use a deadly weapon, causing the death of the victim, use of sex as a weapon, or infecting the victim with HIV/AIDS), or tortures a vulnerable person (a person with a disability or a pregnant woman) is punishable with life imprisonment (id. §6).