Committee against Torture
Concluding observations on the second periodic report of Uganda *
1.The Committee considered the second periodic report of Uganda at its 1951st and 1954th meetings, held on 9 and 10 November 2022, and adopted the following concluding observations at its 1969th meeting, held on 22 November 2022.
2.The Committee welcomes the submission of the State party’s report, but regrets that it was submitted 12 years late.
3.The Committee appreciates having had the opportunity to engage in a constructive dialogue with the State party’s delegation, and the responses provided orally and in writing to the questions and concerns raised during the consideration of the report.
4.The Committee welcomes the ratification of the following international instruments by the State party:
(a)The Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities and the Optional Protocol thereto, in 2008;
(b)The Protocol to the African Charter on Human and Peoples’ Rights on the Rights of Women in Africa, in 2010.
5.The Committee welcomes the State party’s adoption of the Prevention and Prohibition of Torture Act in 2012, the Prevention and Prohibition of Torture Regulations in 2017 and the Human Rights Enforcement Act in 2019.
6.The Committee also welcomes the State party’s initiatives to revise and introduce other legislation in areas of relevance to the Convention, including the adoption of the following:
(a)The Employment Act, in 2006, which provides for general principles including the prohibition of forced or compulsory labour;
(b)The Refugee Act, in 2006;
(c)The Prevention of Trafficking in Persons Act, in 2009;
(d)The Domestic Violence Act, in 2010;
(e)The Prohibition of Female Genital Mutilation Act, in 2010;
(f)The International Criminal Court Act, in 2010.
7.The Committee commends the State party for its initiatives to reinforce its institutional framework in order to afford greater human rights protection and to apply the Convention more widely, in particular the following:
(a)The establishment of the parliamentary standing committee on human rights, in May 2012, to ensure compliance with human rights standards in Parliament’s work;
(b)The establishment of the Directorate of Human Rights and Legal Services in the Uganda Police Force, in August 2013, with the mandate to ensure compliance with human rights and the rule of law in police operations;
(c)The reinforcement of the Directorate of Human Rights in the Uganda People’s Defence Forces, which had been created in 2007, and the establishment of human rights desks in the Chieftaincy of Military Intelligence and the Air Force in 2012;
(d)The adoption of guidelines by the Uganda Prisons Service to instruct the establishment of human rights committees in prisons and of a human rights desk at the its headquarters, in 2010.
C.Principal subjects of concern and recommendations
Pending follow-up issues from previous reporting cycle
8.In its concluding observations on the initial report of the State party, the Committee requested the State party to provide information on its implementation of the Committee’s recommendations that it minimize the number of security forces and agencies with the power to arrest, detain and investigate; abolish the use of “ungazetted” or unauthorized places of detention or “safe houses”; allow independent human rights monitors full access to official and non-official places of detention, without notice; protect the civilian population in areas of armed conflict; and prevent the abduction of children and facilitate the reintegration of former child soldiers into society. The Committee regrets that although the Rapporteur for follow-up to concluding observations sent a reminder to the State party on 5 April 2007, the Committee received no response from the State party under the procedure for follow-up to concluding observations. In the light of facts contained in the State party’s second periodic report and the information provided by the delegation, the Committee is of the view that these recommendations have been partially implemented (see paras. 14 and 16 below).
Definition and criminalization of torture
9.The Committee notes the information provided by the State party regarding the absolute and non-derogable prohibition of torture included in the Constitution and the Prevention and Prohibition of Torture Act of 2012. The Committee observes that the Prevention and Prohibition of Torture Act includes the definition of torture contained in article 1 of the Convention, encompasses non-premeditated acts of torture and extends the responsibility for torture beyond public officials to include “person acting in private capacity”, although it does not clearly define this term (art. 1).
10. The State party should ensure that all forms of torture are prohibited in accordance with the definition contained in article 1 of the Convention not only in law, but also in practice. In this regard, the State party should ensure that, comprehensive anti-torture provisions of its legislation notwithstanding, its application leaves no actual or potential loopholes for impunity.
Allegations of widespread torture or ill-treatment
11.The Committee is deeply concerned by reports that torture and ill-treatment continue to be widespread and frequently practised in Uganda. It is also concerned at reports indicating excessive use of force and other acts of violence within the context of coronavirus disease (COVID-19) emergency measures and the implementation of presidential directives by security agencies. In that regard, the Committee notes the explanations offered by the State party’s delegation regarding the investigation and prosecution of alleged acts of torture and ill-treatment. According to the information provided by the delegation, the Office of the Director of Public Prosecutions had concluded 508 cases involving torture, and in 1,515 cases involving other acts of cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment, leading to 885 convictions in the period 2021–2022. The Committee is further concerned at reports that the relevant agencies, including the Uganda Police Force, have not implemented the Prevention and Prohibition of Torture Regulations of 2017. According to the information before the Committee, the Uganda Police Force still uses the Penal Code Act (Cap. 120), recording cases of torture as assault, instead of Form 4, which is designed to document cases of torture based on the Manual on the Effective Investigation and Documentation of Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment (Istanbul Protocol). Access to justice by victims is thereby limited because prosecutors and judges lack sufficient evidence to prosecute and try cases of torture. Lastly, while section 21 of the Prevention and Prohibition of Torture Act provides for the protection of witnesses and victims of torture, information received by the Committee suggests that one of the obstacles to investigation and prosecution is the reluctance of victims and witnesses to report torture to competent authorities as they fear reprisals (arts. 2, 12–13 and 16).
12. The State party should:
(a) Ensure that all complaints of torture and ill-treatment are promptly investigated in an impartial manner by an independent body, and that there is no institutional or hierarchical relationship between that body’s investigators and the suspected perpetrators of such acts;
(b) Ensure that the authorities launch investigations whenever there are complaints of torture or ill-treatment, or reasonable grounds to believe that an act of torture or ill-treatment has been committed;
(c) Ensure that, in cases of alleged torture or ill-treatment, suspected perpetrators are suspended from duty immediately for the duration of the investigation, particularly when there is a risk that they might otherwise be in position to repeat the alleged act, commit reprisals against the alleged victim or obstruct the investigation;
(d) Compile and publish comprehensive disaggregated information relevant to all complaints and reports received of torture or ill-treatment, including information as to whether such complaints led to investigations and, if so, by which authority, whether the investigation resulted in the imposition of disciplinary measures and/or prosecutions and whether the victims obtained redress in a manner that will enable the State party to provide such information to the Committee and other relevant monitors in the future;
(e) Enact into the law the witness protection bill;
(f) Reinforce awareness-raising, capacity-building and training in all law enforcement agencies on effective implementation of the Prevention and Prohibition of Torture Act of 2012 and the Prevention and Prohibition of Torture Regulations of 2017, and ensure the systematic use of Form 4 and sanctions against officials who do not implement the Prevention and Prohibition of Torture Act.
13.While noting the information provided by the delegation on the principles governing extraditions, the Committee regrets the lack of information available on the number of extraditions carried out during the reporting period, the number of instances and the types of cases in which the State party has offered or accepted diplomatic assurances or guarantees, and the measures taken in such cases with regard to subsequent monitoring (art. 3).
14. The State party should:
(a) Ensure that, in practice, no one may be expelled, returned or extradited to another State where there are substantial grounds for believing that he or she would run a personal and foreseeable risk of being subjected to torture or ill-treatment;
(b) Ensure that procedural safeguards against refoulement are in place and that effective remedies with respect to refoulement claims in removal proceedings are available, including reviews of rejections by an independent judicial body, in particular on appeal;
(c) Ensure the establishment of an effective mechanism to promptly identify victims of torture among asylum-seekers.
Execution of writs of habeas corpus
15.While welcoming the data provided by the State party on the numbers of habeas corpus applications in 2020 (31), 2021 (48) and 2022 (16), the Committee remains concerned at the reported limited accessibility and effectiveness of this procedure (arts. 2, 11 and 16).
16. The State party should take all measures necessary to make sure that the right to habeas corpus is respected in practice and effective in ensuring the release of individuals in detention.
17.While welcoming the information provided on the judicial system and on the recruitment process, including additional submissions on the functioning of the International Crimes Division of the High Court and on the application of Islamic law in Uganda, the Committee is concerned at the lack of independence of the judiciary vis-à-vis the executive branch and its susceptibility to political pressure (art. 14).
18. The State party should:
(a) Ensure the full independence, impartiality and effectiveness of the judiciary, including by ensuring that the appointment of judges conforms to the relevant international standards, including the Basic Principles on the Independence of the Judiciary;
(b) Provide detailed information on the application of the Islamic law.
19.The Committee notes the information provided by the State party’s delegation detailing the training on human rights and international standards provided to law enforcement officials, but regrets not having received information on mandatory training specifically related to the Convention. It also regrets the absence of information on training programmes for professionals directly involved in the investigation and documentation of torture and for medical and other personnel dealing with detainees on how to detect and document physical and psychological sequelae of torture and ill-treatment (art. 11).
20. The State party should:
(a) Further develop mandatory initial and in-service training programmes to ensure that all relevant public officials are well acquainted with the provisions of the Convention, especially the absolute prohibition of torture, and that they are fully aware that violations will not be tolerated and will be investigated and that those responsible will be prosecuted and, upon conviction, appropriately punished;
(b) Ensure that all relevant staff, including medical personnel, are specifically trained to identify cases of torture and ill-treatment, in accordance with the Istanbul Protocol;
(c) Develop a methodology for assessing the effectiveness of training programmes in reducing the number of cases of torture and ill-treatment and in ensuring the identification, documentation and investigation of such acts and the prosecution of those responsible.
“Ungazetted” or unauthorized places of detention
21.While noting State party’s assertion that the Government did not run any “safe houses” or “ungazetted” places of detention and that such places were run by individuals who were not affiliated with the Government, the Committee remains concerned at reports indicating that this practice still takes place in Uganda (arts. 2, 11–13 and 16).
22. The Committee reiterates the recommendation contained in its previous concluding observations that the State party should abolish the use of “ungazetted” or unauthorized places of detention or “safe houses”, and immediately provide information about all places of detention. The State party should also investigate and ensure the prosecution of officials involved in arbitrary detention and the operation of unauthorized detention places, and ensure that victims have access to adequate remedies.
Conditions of detention
23.While noting of the efforts made by the State party to reduce prison overcrowding, the Committee is concerned that occupancy rates remain high, partly owing to the number of persons in pretrial detention. In that regard, the Committee is also concerned at reports indicating that overcrowding in prisons has resulted in limited access to bedding and sleeping space, poor health care and drug-stock shortages in detention facilities (arts. 2, 11 and 16).
24. The State party should:
(a) Intensify its efforts to bring conditions of detention into line with the United Nations Standard Minimum Rules for the Treatment of Prisoners (the Nelson Mandela Rules) and seek to eliminate overcrowding in penitentiary institutions and other detention facilities, including through the application of non-custodial measures. In that connection, the Committee draws the State party’s attention to the United Nations Standard Minimum Rules for Non-custodial Measures (the Tokyo Rules) and the United Nations Rules for the Treatment of Women Prisoners and Non-custodial Measures for Women Offenders (the Bangkok Rules);
(b) Ensure the allocation of the necessary human and material resources for the proper medical and health care of prisoners, in accordance with rules 24 to 35 of the Nelson Mandela Rules.
Monitoring of detention centres
25.The Committee notes the measures instituted by the State party to prevent torture and ill-treatment of inmates, which have significantly reduced the incidence of torture within prisons, the mechanisms in place to facilitate the identification of torture, and the important work done by the Uganda Human Rights Commission in conducting visits to places of deprivation of liberty. Nevertheless, reports indicate that ill-treatment still occurs, especially the beating of inmates by katikiros (leaders appointed from among inmates) and the imposition by prison warders of solitary confinement and caning as disciplinary measures. The Committee notes the establishment of human rights committees mandated to monitor places of detention, but is concerned at reports that they are not functional and that their members have limited knowledge and skills regarding human rights violations (arts. 2, 11 and 16).
26. The State party should:
(a) Take measures to ensure that all places of detention and deprivation of liberty are subject to independent, effective and regular monitoring and inspection without prior notice, and enable monitors to identify conditions, treatment or conduct in places of deprivation of liberty amounting to torture or ill-treatment, to carry out confidential interviews with detainees and to report on their findings to the concerned authorities;
(b) Ensure that effective, independent and accessible complaints mechanisms are available to all persons deprived of their liberty;
(c) Ensure that the Uganda Human Rights Commission is provided with the resources and access necessary to carry out its functions in monitoring all places of deprivation of liberty, and that it is able to receive and consider complaints relating to torture and ill-treatment in detention;
(d) Allow access to places of detention and deprivation of liberty for civil society organizations and other stakeholders active in the field of the protection and promotion of human rights;
(e) Ensure the effective functioning of human rights committees within prison facilities by ensuring that they are fully constituted and trained;
(f) Consider ratifying the Optional Protocol to the Convention.
27.While noting steps taken by the State party to address domestic violence and other forms of sexual and gender-based violence and the initiative to increase the self-sufficiency of women and girls, the Committee deplores that incidents of gender-based violence are still being reported, with incidents of domestic violence the most common in 2021 according to the annual crime report published by the Uganda Police Force, and an absence of available statistical data on numbers of complaints, investigations, prosecutions and convictions in cases of gender-based violence (arts. 2, 4, 12 and 16).
28. The State party should:
(a) Ensure that all cases of gender-based violence, especially those involving actions or omissions by State authorities or other entities that engage the international responsibility of the State party under the Convention, are thoroughly investigated, that the alleged perpetrators are prosecuted and, if convicted, punished appropriately, and that the victims or their families receive redress, including adequate compensation;
(b) Provide mandatory training on the prosecution of gender-based violence to all justice officials and law enforcement personnel, and conduct awareness-raising campaigns on all forms of violence against women;
(c) Compile and provide to the Committee statistical data, disaggregated by the age and ethnicity or nationality of the victim, on the number of complaints, investigations, prosecutions, convictions and sentences recorded in cases of gender-based violence, and on the measures taken to ensure that victims have access to effective remedies and reparation.
All forms of violence against children
29.While noting the statement from the State party on corporal punishment against children being outlawed in all settings, the Committee is concerned at reports that confirm that “reasonable chastisement” is still recognized under common law and corporal punishment is not explicitly prohibited in all settings. The Committee is also concerned at reported incidents of child sacrifice in Uganda (arts. 2 and 16).
30. The Committee calls upon the State party to :
(a) Explicitly prohibit corporal punishment of children in all settings;
(b) Categorically prohibit, investigate and punish all acts of child sacrifice and other harmful practices.
31.While noting information provided by the State party regarding compensation awards paid to victims of human rights violations in 2021, the Committee remains concerned at reports that only a small number of victims had access to compensation through civil cases or complaints to the Uganda Human Rights Commission during the period under review. The Committee also regrets that no rehabilitation programmes for victims of torture have been adopted by the Government and that financial support is not granted to non-governmental bodies willing to carry out this task (art. 14).
32. The State party should ensure that all victims of torture and ill-treatment obtain redress, including an enforceable right to fair and adequate compensation and the means for as full a rehabilitation as possible. The Committee draws the attention of the State party to general comment No. 3 (2012), in which the Committee explains the content and scope of the obligations of States parties to provide full redress to victims of torture. The State party should compile and provide to the Committee information on redress and on compensation measures, including means of rehabilitation, ordered by the courts or other State bodies and actually provided to victims of torture or ill-treatment. The Committee encourages the State party to collaborate with civil society organizations in the design and delivery of rehabilitation services.
Refugees and asylum-seekers
33.While taking into account that Uganda ranks first as refugee-hosting country in Africa and the third in the world, noting the adoption of the Refugee Act in 2006 and noting efforts by the State party in terms of identification, screening and services provided to refugees and asylum-seekers, the Committee has still received reports of cases of torture and ill-treatment among refugees and asylum-seekers, in particular among South Sudanese refugees in Bidi Bidi refugee settlement, with between 80 to 90 per cent of the refugees having been victims of torture or ill-treatment in 2020. The Committee is concerned at the lack of adequate training of staff in charge of refugees, in particular in matters related to the refugees’ right to rehabilitation. In addition, the Committee is concerned at the nine reservations that Uganda made to the Convention relating to the Status of Refugees upon its accession in 1976, relating to articles 7, 8, 9, 13, 15, 16, 17, 25 and 32 (arts. 2, 10 and 16).
34. The State party should:
(a) Consider withdrawing its reservations to the Convention relating to the Status of Refugees;
(b) Ensure that effective mechanisms are established to promptly identify victims of torture among refugees and asylum-seekers, and provide them with access to medical and psychological care;
(c) Strengthen coordination and cooperation with national and international non-governmental organizations working in the field of the protection of refugees to guarantee that comprehensive investigations of allegations of torture are carried out and full rehabilitation for victims of torture among refugees and asylum-seekers is ensured in practice.
Trafficking in persons
35.While noting the challenges related to the identification, documentation and prevention of trafficking in persons in the context of forced displacement, and particularly in the country’s camps for refugees and asylum-seekers, the Committee welcomes the adoption of comprehensive laws and policies to address the issue. Nevertheless, the Committee is concerned at the ineffective implementation of these provisions due to lack of knowledge among and training of duty bearers and front-line actors charged with their implementation (arts. 2 and 16).
36. The State party should:
(a) Intensify its efforts to prevent and combat trafficking, including by putting in place effective procedures for the identification and referral of victims among vulnerable groups, such as asylum-seekers and irregular migrants;
(b) Improve the training of law enforcement officers and other first responders by including statutory training on the identification and referral of potential victims of trafficking in persons;
(c) Take measures to reinforce coordination between refugee protection systems and anti-trafficking authorities in order to improve the identification and prevention of human trafficking into and out of Uganda;
(d) Ensure access to adequate protection and support for victims of trafficking, irrespective of their ability to cooperate in legal proceedings against traffickers;
(e) Provide the Committee with comprehensive disaggregated data on the number of investigations, prosecutions and sentences imposed on perpetrators of human trafficking, and on the provision of effective redress to the victims.
37.The Committee notes the amendments to the Anti-Terrorism Act of 2002, adopted in 2015 and 2017, and the establishment of the Counter-Terrorism Directorate and the Special Investigations Unit in the Uganda Police Force, but regrets the lack of information available on how the State party has ensured that those measures are compatible with all its obligations under the Convention (art. 2).
38. The State party should:
(a) Provide up-to-date disaggregated data on persons who have been convicted under the Anti-Terrorism Act;
(b) Provide information on any complaints of non-observance of international standards in the context of application of Anti-Terrorism Act;
(c) Ensure that laws related to counter-terrorism and State security comply fully with international human rights standards, including through the provision of all the fundamental legal safeguards outlined in paragraph 13 of general comment No. 2 (2007), and that these safeguards are applied in practice, including for opposition parties or candidates.
39.The Committee notes that, following the landmark case of Attorney General v. Susan Kigula and 417 others, the death penalty is no longer mandatory for capital offences and is now subject to the discretionary power of judges, and that, according to the information provided by the State party, if after three years from the date of sentence no decision has been made by the executive to carry out the court order for the execution of the convict, the death sentence is be deemed commuted to life imprisonment without remission. While the Committee observes that the Penal Code contains eight sections under which offences may or must be punished by death, and that 28 offences, under the Penal Code Act, Anti-Terrorism Act and Uganda People’s Defence Forces Act, are punishable by the death penalty, it regrets that the language used is not consistent across all legislation and that detailed and disaggregated data on the number of individuals under sentence of death during the reporting period was not provided (arts. 2 and 16).
40. The Committee invites the State party to:
(a) Take appropriate steps to ensure that the death sentences of all persons who have been on death row in excess of three years are commuted to prison terms;
(b) Provide annual disaggregated data on the current number of individuals under sentence of death, including information on gender, nationality, date of arrest, date of conviction, offences committed, relationship to victims, sentencing authority, status of any appeals, rehearing or requests for pardon or clemency, and the current sentence being served;
(c) Improve the quality of legal assistance for individuals charged with capital offences and people who are sentenced to death, through enhanced funding and expanded training, in collaboration with civil society organizations;
(d) Consider further reducing the number of capital offences in its legislation;
(e) Consider ratifying the Second Optional Protocol to the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, aiming at the abolition of the death penalty.
41.The Committee remains concerned at the number of cases of mob justice in Uganda, with 779 cases of murder by mob action documented in 2021 (arts. 2 and 16).
42. Recalling its previous concluding observations, the Committee urges the State party to take all the measures necessary, including judicial measures, to prevent mob justice.
43.While noting the victim-centred approach of the National Transitional Justice Policy passed by the Government, complexities due to the number of tribes in Uganda and the challenges related to consultation with the population, the Committee regrets that no further information was provided on the Policy (arts 2, 12–13 and 16).
44. The Committee urges the State party to continue its initiatives to implement the National Transitional Justice Policy, which should contribute to efforts to combat torture, and to provide detailed information on the Policy.
45.The Committee welcomes the efforts under way to adopt the national legal aid policy and bill, which the State party informed the Committee is currently being examined by Parliament, but regrets this policy and bill have still not been adopted (art. 2).
46. The Committee encourages the State party to expedite the enactment of the national legal aid policy and bill.
National Action Plan on Human Rights
47.The Committee notes that the second National Development Plan, for the period 2015/16 to 2019/20, was prepared in 2014, but regrets that the national action plan on human rights, which would provide opportunities to reinforce the capacities of the competent administrative and judicial authorities in Uganda to combat torture, has still not been enacted (art. 2).
48. The State party should:
(a) Adopt and implement the national action plan on human rights, in consultation with all the stakeholders concerned, including the Uganda Human Rights Commission and civil society, which would contribute to the promotion and protection of human rights and provide opportunities to reinforce the capacities of the competent administrative and judicial authorities in Uganda to combat torture;
(b) Incorporate the recommendations of the Committee contained in the present concluding observations in the process of finalizing, adopting and implementing the national action plan on human rights, and include components related to reinforcing the capacities of the competent authorities to prevent and prosecute acts of torture and to ensure reparation and rehabilitation for victims in practice.
National human rights institution
49.The Committee notes that the Uganda Human Rights Commission has been accredited by the Global Alliance of National Human Rights Institutions Subcommittee on Accreditation with A status since 2000, and welcomes the important work done by the Commission to implement its mandate. Nevertheless, the Subcommittee, in its recommendations in May 2018, encouraged the Commission to advocate the formalization of a transparent and participatory process for the selection and appointment of its members in the relevant legislation, regulations or binding administrative guidelines.
50.The Committee regrets that the Uganda Human Rights Commission formed part of the State party’s delegation and did not respond to the Committee’s invitation to meet separately prior to the review of the State party (art. 2).
51. The State party should:
(a) Strengthen the capacity of the Uganda Human Rights Commission to independently monitor, document and investigate cases of torture, and provide data about its investigation into cases of torture;
(b) Dedicate an appropriate level of funding and staff to the Uganda Human Rights Commission to carry out its mandate, in particular in preventing of torture.
52. The Committee requests the State party to provide, by 25 November 2023, information on follow-up to the Committee’s recommendations on “ungazetted” or unauthorized places of detention, gender-based violence and the national human rights institution (see paras. 22, 28 (a) and 51 above). In that context, the State party is invited to inform the Committee about its plans for implementing, within the coming reporting period, some or all of the remaining recommendations in the concluding observations.
53. The Committee encourages the State party to consider making the declaration under article 22 of the Convention recognizing the competence of the Committee to receive and consider communications from individuals subject to its jurisdiction.
54. The State party is requested to widely disseminate the report submitted to the Committee and the present concluding observations, in appropriate languages, through official websites, the media and non-governmental organizations and to inform the Committee about its dissemination activities.
55. The Committee requests the State party to submit its next periodic report, which will be its third periodic report, by 25 November 2026. For that purpose, and in view of the fact that the State party has agreed to report to the Committee under the simplified reporting procedure, the Committee will, in due course, transmit to the State party a list of issues prior to reporting. The State party’s replies to that list of issues will constitute its third periodic report under article 19 of the Convention, which the Committee urges the State party to submit in a timely fashion.