- Human Rights Watch has urged the Uganda government to take charge and prompt action against the unlawful arrest and torture by its anti-terrorism unit. The call follows revelations that more than 100 people were illegally detained and tortured, while four died of injuries in the past two years.
The 89-paged report, Open Secret: Illegal Detention and Torture by the Joint Anti-terrorism Task (JATT) in Uganda, has revealed that the force's opt for abusive responses to alleged rebel and terrorist activities.
The report found that agents of JATT carry out arrests wearing civilian clothes with no formal identification, saying suspects would then be forced into unmarked cars then taken to JATT's headquarters in Kololo, a rich suburb of Kampala.
Africa director at Human Rights Watch, Georgette Gagnon, said JATT detains and beats suspects and hold them for months without any contact with their family or lawyers. “Uganda conveniently uses the broad mantle of anti-terrorism to abuse and torture suspects,” he said.
Human Rights Watch said the government has failed to hold responsible JATT members accountable for the abuses. “The government has a duty both to end these practices and to prosecute those responsible,” Human Rights Watch said.
According to the report, most suspects arrested by the unit are Muslims, a minority in the majority Christian nation, and are accused of some involvement with the Allied Democratic Forces (ADF), a Ugandan rebel group based in Congo.
“Other suspects include individuals with alleged links to al-Qaeda suspects. Although many detainees have been released without charges, some have been charged with terrorism or treason,” the report stated.
Human Rights Watch said the Ugandan government has a responsibility under international law to investigate allegations of abuses by its forces and to hold those responsible to account, urging President Yoweri Museveni to take an active role in curtailing the abuses and ensure that prosecutors have the independence to investigate torture and illegal detention by JATT.
JATT is a joint operation, formed in 1999, which draws its personnel from the police, the internal and external intelligence organisations, and military intelligence.
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