Uganda Police number one in violation of Ugandan human rights

Uganda Police number one in violation of Ugandan human rights

By Wanyana Maureen


Uganda police is now known for detaining numerous opposition politicians and activists on political motivation grounds. In many cases, It releases many without charge and others are charged with crimes that include; treason, annoying the President, cyber-harassment, inciting violence, holding illegal meetings, and abuse of office.

Uganda Human Rights Commission (UHRC), said in its annual report that allegations of security agencies’ use of torture was the most common complaint it registered. It reported that lengthy pretrial detention and detention beyond the legally mandated duration often led to the torture of suspects as security agencies sought to coerce a confession or incriminating statements from the detained persons. Local civil society organizations and the UHRC reported that the Chieftaincy of Military Intelligence (CMI), the domestic intelligence agency Internal Security Organization (ISO), and the UPF were most notorious for torture.

The Human Rights and Peace Center at the Makerere University School of Law noted that security forces used over 70 different types of torture techniques, both physical and psychological, including electric shocks, exposure to hot furnaces smoldering with red pepper, submersion in water, and beatings on the limbs and joints, among other torture methods.

Kampala, Uganda. 20th June 2013 — A Ugandan police water canon truck splashes teargas at protesters in the capital Kampala. — The Ugandan capital Kampala has been overrun with rioting since the opposition leader Kizza Besigye was detained for holding an unsanctioned rally. Police claim he was seeking to incite violence.

Local civil society activists, media, and opposition politicians reported that the CMI and ISO operated unofficial detention facilities called “safe houses” in the Mbuya, Nakasero, and Kololo neighborhoods of Kampala, Kyengera in central Uganda, and the Kalangala Islands in Lake Victoria near Entebbe. They hold suspects without trial and exposed them to torture and inhumane treatment.

Numerous former detainees told the committee of Parliament that ISO held them in “safe houses” where ISO officers beat them, denied them bedding, fed them only once a day, and denied them access to their families and lawyers. One former detainee said ISO operatives used chains to hang him by the arms for several days, damaging tissue in his abdomen. Another former detainee said ISO officials plucked out his toenails with a pair of pliers and tied heavy weights on his genitals.


Former detainees and relatives of detainees in “safe houses” said some detainees spent upwards of six months in detention without arraignment in court, and without contact with the outside world. The former detainees also said ISO worked with an alleged burglar and killer called Soobi to inflict harm on detainees in “safe houses,” while pressuring them to confess to crimes.

The Minister for Security Hon Elly Tumwine when asked to respond to allegations of detentions in “safe houses,” told the committee that it was standard international practice for intelligence agencies to operate “safe houses” and that the country was no exception.


Tumwine said “safe houses” help the government “to manage hard-core criminals, who require a long time to reform, especially those who have rescinded to criminality after serving long prison sentences and now need observation and surveillance.” He confirmed that the government worked with Soobi, who was “fundamental in helping security agencies trace the violent criminals he used to operate with, who have not reformed.”

Tumwine denied the allegation that ISO officers torture detainees, but within the same hearing, said ISO suspended some officers for “illegal” activities. He refused to grant the committee permission to visit the “safe houses.”

The law requires that judges or prosecutors issue a warrant before authorities make an arrest, unless the arrest occurs during commission of a crime or while in pursuit of a perpetrator. Nevertheless, authorities often arrested suspects without warrants.


The law requires authorities to arraign suspects within 48 hours of arrest, but they frequently held suspects longer without charge. Authorities must try suspects arrested for capital offenses within 360 days (120 days if charged with an offense triable by subordinate courts) or release them on bail, but in Uganda its the opposite.

Security forces often hold opposition political members and other suspects incommunicado and under house arrest.

The police and UPDF arrested Kyagulanyi on charges of holding an illegal assembly in relation to a 2018 protest he held in Kampala against a proposed tax. The court remanded Kyagulanyi later that day until May 2, when it released him on bail upon condition that he not participate in “unlawful assemblies.” The trial continued at year’s end.


Arbitrary or Unlawful Interference with Privacy, Family, Home, or Correspondence, the constitution and law prohibit such actions, but there were reports the government failed to respect these prohibitions.

Police do not always obtain search warrants to enter private homes and offices. It’s reported that the government hired Huawei technicians to hack into Kyagulanyi’s private WhatsApp communications to gather political intelligence against him.


Freedom of Peaceful Assembly, while the constitution provides for freedom of assembly, the government using the police is not respecting this right. The government has continued to use the Public Order Management Act to limit the right to assemble and disrupted opposition and civil society-led public meetings and rallies.


The law placed a significant bureaucratic burden on those wishing to organize or host gatherings and afforded the UPF wide discretion to prevent an event. While the law only requires individuals to “notify” police of their intention to hold a public meeting, it also gives the police the power to block meetings they deem “unsuitable.”


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