U.S. Provided Torture Training To Uganda--Report

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"Given the often-cited allegations of torture and illegal detention by JATT and CMI by local and international human rights organizations, and by the Uganda Human Rights Commission, it is unclear how these individuals could have been eligible for US funded training," concluded the report.

[Global: Africa]

The Bush Administration provided torture training for Ugandan security agents even though U.S. law bars training for countries whose agents engage in torture, according to a major report.

The Leahy Amendment, also known as "Leahy Law," is a provision in U.S. appropriations legislation and prohibits U.S. military assistance to foreign military units that violate human rights with impunity. It first appeared as part of the 1997 Foreign Operations Appropriations Act; it's known by the name of its principal sponsor Vermont Senator Patrick Leahy.

Senator Leahy could not be reached for comment by publication time. Recently, he called for the creation of a Truth Commission to examine abuse of power by Bush officials.

The use of torture dominated the news cycle in the United States last week when President Barack Obama, who has denounced the torture of al-Qaeda suspects by U.S. agents, authorized the release of George Bush Administration memos detailing and approving of torture of al-Qaeda suspects, including water boarding.

Even though President Obama ruled out the prosecution of CIA agents who may have been following orders, he left the door open for some superiors who authorized the illegal interrogation procedures.

Separately, Spanish authorities wanted to take legal action against Americans who engaged in torture of Spanish citizens.

It is unclear whether Americans also trained Ugandan agents on water boarding techniques; the practice involved covering the nose and mouth of a suspect with cloth and pouring water over it to simulate drowning.

It was condemned by U.S. Senator John McCain, a war hero, when he was candidate for the White House, during the campaign.

Other countries that provided training to Ugandan agents are the United Kingdom and Israel, says the report
"Open Secret: Illegal Detention and Torture by the Joint Anti-terrorism Task Force in Uganda," by Human Rights Watch; HRW is a major New York-based organization that documents human rights abuses around the world.

The U.S. provided $5 million worth of training to Uganda agents even though the Leahy Amendment bars such training. It is unclear whether the Ugandan victims of torture can hold the U.S. liable for torture by American-trained Ugandan agents, if the training violated American law.

Ugandan agents punch, whip, cane or use electric shock on suspects, according to the report, which also said at least three people have died as a result.

Uganda opposition politicians have consistently accused the government there of using draconian laws disguised as measures for combating terrorism, to victimize legitimate political opponents.

"Uganda's foreign partners have largely failed to address serious human rights violations by security forces in Uganda, including its counterterrorism forces," says the Human Rights Watch report.

"The Ugandan government's use of unlawful detention and torture against terrorism and treason suspects violates domestic and international human rights law," adds the report.

"Foreign governments who provide training and collaborate with the Ugandan military and police on counterterrorism, national security and justice issues have a substantial responsibility to use their influence with the Ugandan government to stop unlawful detention and torture of suspects in the Kololo facility," continues the report, "and any other detention location illegal or otherwise."

Kololo is a residential suburb of the Uganda capital, Kampala; according to Human Rights Watch. In one case a Ugandan citizen was being tortured in a "safe house" next to the residence of the Danish ambassador. When the victim jumped a fence and fled to the ambassador’s residence, his tormentors also scaled the fence and dragged him back.

Human Rights Watch says Uganda's chief of military intelligence, Brigadier James Mugira, confirmed that Ugandan agents received the training "but did not give any detail about the content of the courses."

"In an in-person meeting, Mugira told Human Rights Watch that the United States, the United Kingdom and Israel have all provided training to his forces," states the report.

"To receive this US-training, under the terms of the so-called Leahy amendment these individuals had to be vetted for involvement in human rights abuses by the US and passed, because, in principle, the United States prohibits military assistance to gross human rights abusers under this provision," states the report.

"The Leahy Amendment is a binding provision of the Foreign Operations Appropriations Act that must be renewed every year. It prohibits aid and training to units of foreign security forces if there is credible evidence that the unit has committed gross human rights abuses. To comply with the Leahy amendment, embassy personnel must actively monitor the human rights behavior of military units that benefit from US security assistance," continues the report.

"Given the often-cited allegations of torture and illegal detention by JATT and CMI by local and international human rights organizations, and by the Uganda Human Rights Commission, it is unclear how these individuals could have been eligible for US funded training," concluded the report.

JATT is the acronym of Joint Anti-Terrorism Taskforce and CMI is the Chieftaincy of Military Intelligence, in Uganda.

"Media reports, including those from US military sources, indicate that the US has carried out multiple trainings on counterterrorism for Ugandan military forces in Uganda," adds the report, noting that the most recent such training was in December 2008, before George W. Bush left office.

It's unclear whether the Obama Administration will continue such training of Ugandan agents. The Kampala regime has been accused of massive human rights abuses and in 2005 the International Court of Justice found the government liable for war crimes and plunder in the Democratic Republic of Congo; Congo was awarded $10 billion compensation, which has not been paid.

Please see http://www.icj-cij.org/docket/files/116/10455.pdf  

On June 8, 2006, the Wall Street Journal also reported that the International Criminal Court (ICC) was investigating the military and political leaders on war crimes allegations.

Please see the report "Open Secret," which was released April 8 http://www.hrw.org/en/node/82072/section/6

Also see: http://www.hrw.org/en/node/82072/section/13

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