Ugandan Victims of Vile Torture Won’t Be Compensated

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Peter Ogwang--a torture victim

Last week the High Court in Uganda awarded a shillings 1.8 billion or $500,000 compensation to 22 victims of torture by Museveni's security forces. The 22 had been arrested in connection with the still unsolved murder of Uganda's Assistant Inspector General of Police (AIGP) Andrew Felix Kaweesi and gruesomely tortured by security operatives to extract confessions.

Torture is a criminal offense under the Prohibition and Prevention of Torture Act 2012 and carries a maximum sentence of 15 years imprisonment. Torture in all its forms has been the trademark of the Yoweri Museveni regime for the last 31 years. It is a tool for suppressing political dissent through the spread of fear amongst the population.

This is not the first time courts of law have awarded compensation to victims of torture by security operatives. The regime does not honor such awards and both the courts and victims have no powers of enforcing such orders. Year after year, security agencies have been competing in scoring the highest incidents of torture with the police consistently trouncing other agencies in recent years to win top honors. To escape criminal responsibility, in 2016 the police issued a circular to the effect that individual police officers were to pay any court fines awarded for torture by security operatives.

As if that was not enough, the Uganda police set up a professional standard unit (PSU) and the police disciplinary tribunals as a cover-up for culprits of serious crimes against the population. That way the regime guarantees the immunity and protection of its officers in as far as torture is concerned.

The regime will not honor the $500,000 compensation to the victims. Instead the ruling worsens the already bad situation for the 22 victims of torture. As usual the police will instead tighten its grip by continuously holding their victims in detention. Even when the Courts of law sets them free for one reason or the other, the regime typically re-arrests them on fresh trumped up charges. Behind the curtains the regime will instead coerce the victims to give up their push for compensation in return for their freedom. 

The regime will continue pressuring the courts so victims are unfairly either kept in detention or get convicted. The regime offers the facade of upholding the rule of law by allowing courts to award compensation to victims of torture even though it does not intend to pay a dime. That is why the regime has not only kept silent but has not bothered to appeal the court order.

Ugandans who are tortured must still sue the regime if nothing else to establish the facts and have a record. 

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