By Country Resources

Uganda’s anti-torture law: A mirror image showing India’s failure to criminalise torture

The 2012 Prevention and Prohibition of Torture Act, which is in line with Articles 24 & 44 of the 1995 Constitution, provides for freedom from torture, cruel, inhuman and degrading treatment or punishment.[3]

The Preamble of the Act states “An Act to give effect, in accordance with Articles 24 and 44(a) of the Constitution, to the respect of human dignity and protection from inhuman treatment by prohibiting and preventing any form of torture or cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment; to provide for the crime of torture; to give effect to the obligations of Uganda as a State Party to the United Nation’s Convention against Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment and other related matters.”

Important provisions of the Torture Act [4]

Definition of torture

Section 2 of the Act defines “torture” as any act or omission that is intentionally inflicted on a person and that causes severe pain or suffering, whether physical or mental, with the purpose of obtaining information, punishment, intimidation or coercion of the victim by any person or at the instigation of or with the consent or acquiescence of any person whether a public official or other person acting in an official or private whether a public official or other person acting in an official or private capacity.

Physical torture includes

  1. systematic beating, head banging, punching, kicking, striking with truncheons, rifle butts, jumping on the stomach;
  2. food deprivation or forcible feeding with spoiled food, animal or human excreta;
  3. electric shocks;
  4. cigarette burning, burning by electrically heated rods, hot oil, acid
  5. the submersion of the victim’s head in water
  6. being tied or forced to assume a fixed and stressful body position;
  7. rape and sexual abuse, including the insertion of foreign bodies into the sexual organs or rectum or electrical torture of the genitals;
  8. mutilation, such as amputation of body parts
  9. dental torture or the forced extraction of the teeth;
  10. harmful exposure to the elements such as sunlight and extreme cold; or
  11. the use of plastic bags and other materials placed over the victim’s head with the intention to asphyxiate.

Mental or psychological torture includes

  1. Blindfolding;
  2. threatening the victim or his or her family with bodily harm;
  3. execution or other wrongful acts
  4. confining a victim incommunicado
  5. confining the victim in a solitary cell;
  6. prolonged interrogation of the victim so as to deny him or her normal length of sleep or rest
  7. maltreating a member of the victim’s family;
  8. witnessing the torture sessions by the victim’s family or relatives;

Aggravated Torture

A person is liable to life imprisonment for aggravated torture;

  1. When the offender uses or threatens to use or used a deadly weapon
  2. When the offender uses sex as a means of torture
  3. When the victim was a person with a disability
  4. When the victim was pregnant/becomes pregnant
  5. When the offender causes death
  6. If the victim was subjected to medical experiments
  7. If the victim acquires HIV/AIDS
  8. If the victim was under the age of 18 years
  9. If the victim is incapacitated
  10. If the act of torture is recurring, or
  11. If the offender commits any act that the court considers aggravating

Pharmacological torture includes

  1. administration of drugs to induce confession or reduce mental competence;
  2. the use of drugs to induce extreme pain or certain symptoms of diseases and
  3. other forms of deliberate and aggravated cruel, inhuman or degrading pharmacological treatment or punishment

Inadmissibility of evidence obtained by torture

Any information, obtained from someone by torture shall not be used as evidence against that person.

Section 14 provides as under:

  1. Any information, confession or admission obtained from a person by means of torture is inadmissible in evidence against that person in any proceeding.
  2. Notwithstanding subsection (1), such information, confession or admission may be admitted against a person accused of torture as evidence that the information, confession or admission was obtained by torture.

Criminalisation of torture

Section 4(1) provides that a person who performs any act of torture as defined in Section 3 commits an offence and is liable on conviction to imprisonment for fifteen years or to a fine or both. Under Section 4(2) a person shall not be punished for disobeying an order to undertke actions amounting to torture, cruel or inhuman treatment.

Section 5 provides life imprisonment to offender and any other person jointly connected with the commission of an act of torture on conviction to life imprisonment for aggravating torture.

Section 7 provides that if cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment committed by or at the instigation of or with the consent or acquiescence of a public official or other person acting in an official or private capacity, which does not amount to torture as defined in section 2, is a criminal offence and shall be liable on conviction to imprisonment not exceeding seven years or a fine or both.

Section 8 provides imprisonment up to seven years and/or fine if convicted of procuring, aiding or abetting, financing, soliciting, inciting or recommending torture.

Section 9(2) also provides up to seven years or fine or both to a person who is or becomes an accessory after the fact to the offence of torture on conviction.”

While under Section 15 there is prohibition on the use of information obtained by torture and is liable on conviction to imprisonment up to two years or a fine or both.

The Act provides no amnesty to a person accused for offence of torture.

Non-refoulement

Torture is extraditable offence under the Act. However, there shall be no transfer of persons to a country or place where likelihood of torture exists. Section 22(2) provides that “a person shall not be extradited or deported from Uganda to another state if there are substantial grounds to believe that that person is likely to be in danger of being subjected to torture.”

Remedies to victims

Under Section 6 compensation, rehabilitation, restitution or any payment ordered by court can be made to a survivor/victim of torture. The court may order the payment of compensation to the victim, for his or her suffering. This include restoring the victim and his or her family to their original state, which may be in the form of return of any property, money for the suffering, and services such as health care. Also paying money for physical or mental suffering, loss of employment, or damage of property, and costs for special assistance, medical and mental care, or legal services to the victim.

Witness protection

The Government shall protect whoever reports, witnesses, makes a complaint about torture.

Although human rights laws and mechanisms exist in Uganda, practical enforcement remained a challenge. Various reports over the years indicate allegations of widespread torture, committed with impunity by both state and non-state actors. In 2015, torture was reported by Uganda Human Rights Commission (UHRC) as the highest of all human rights violations in the country comprising 37.95% of all reported violations. The Uganda Police Force, which is charged with protecting people and their property, unfortunately continues to be ranked number one among alleged perpetrators of torture.[5] The UHRC received over 1,000 cases of police torture between 2012 and 2016. It is alleged the actual data on the numbers of those tortured in custody is much higher.[6]

Despite the challenges and visible gap between the legislation and its implementation, there is no doubt that Uganda has seen significant progressive trends and remain one of only 10 African nations to pass domestic anti-torture legislation.[7]

The enactment of the anti-torture legislation by Uganda shows the same can be replicated by other countries including India.


Endnotes:

[1]. The Law against Torture Explaining the Prevention and Prohibition of Torture Act (2012), African Centre for Treatment and Rehabilitation of Torture Victims, August 2014, https://apt.ch/content/files_res/simplified-anti-torture-law-uganda.pdf

[2]. UPR Briefing Note, Torture in Uganda, 2016, IRCT, https://irct.org/uploads /media/23c3782d724002f768745e8411f2cdb3.pdf

[3]. See https://www.refugeelawproject.org/files/others/RLP_Torture_Act_ factsheet_english.pdf

[4]. Prevention and Prohibition of Torture Act, 2012, available at: https://ulii.org/ug/legislation/act/2015/3-3

[5]. UPR Briefing Note, Torture in Uganda, 2016, IRCT, https://irct.org/uploads/ media/23c3782d724002f768745e8411f2cdb3.pdf

[6]. Addressing Torture in Uganda, HRW, 26 June 2018, https://www.hrw.org/ news/2018/06/26/addressing-torture-uganda

[7]. Addressing Torture in Uganda, HRW, 26 June 2018, https://www.hrw.org /news/2018/06/26/addressing-torture-uganda

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