Uganda: Joint Statement on International Day in Support of Torture Victims
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(Kampala, June 24, 2016) - Good morning members of the media, human rights defenders, ladies and gentlemen!
Every 26th June, human rights defenders, survivors of torture and relevant stakeholders the world over take the opportunity to speak out against torture both as a human rights violation and as a crime, and also to remember and support victims and survivors of torture.
As we once again commemorate this year's United Nations International Day in Support of the Victims of Torture on June 26th 2016, it is an opportunity to call on all stakeholders including United Nations Member States, civil society and individuals everywhere to unite in support of the hundreds of thousands of people around the world who have been victims and survivors of torture and those who are still tortured even today.
26th June is the day in 1987 when the UN Convention Against Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment, one of the key instruments in fighting torture, came into effect.
On the international level, today, the Convention Against Torture is ratified by 159 UN Member States. This year, 2016, marks the 35th anniversary of the United Nations Voluntary Fund for Victims of Torture (UNVFVT), a unique victim-focused mechanism that channels funding for the assistance to victims and survivors of torture and their families. It is unfortunate that torture is still prevalent in all regions of the world. We stand together to honour the victims, to show the survivors that they are not alone, and to continue to pursue our quest towards a world without torture.
In Uganda, we have an Anti-Torture legislation, that is, the Prevention and Prohibition of Torture Act, 2012 (PPTA) or the Anti- Torture Law which came into effect on 18th September, 2012.
This law was simplified into an easy to read and understand English version, which was further translated into four languages namely, Kiswahili, Luganda, Luo and Runyankore-Rukiga.
However, with increased dissemination of this Anti-Torture Law, there are still challenges of its implementation. Uganda does not yet have a case which it is able to use to illustrate that it used the Prevention and Prohibition of Torture Act, 2012 or the Anti-Torture Law to prosecute a perpetrator of torture to secure a conviction. In order to assist in effective implementation of the Anti-Torture Law, regulations have been developed to operationalise it, and they only require the signature of the Minister of Justice and Constitutional Affairs and in that regard, it is expected that the stakeholders both in the security agencies and the Judiciary will be able to use the PPTA in the near future.
The international theme for this year 2016 is: "Support Life after Torture". However, at the national level, the Coalition Against Torture in partnership with the Uganda Human Rights Commission, have adopted "Together in the fight Against Torture" as this year's theme.
The fight against torture is every person's duty whether state actor or non-state actor. The rights holders or the general public are duty bound to report incidents of torture. There is need for persons in Uganda to acknowledge the fact that the general public need to know and understand both their rights and responsibilities in the criminal justice system of Uganda. As we commemorate this years United Nations International Day in Support of Victims of Torture on 26th, June 2016, we wish to remind each one of us, particularly duty bearers or state and security agencies, that: -
- The right to freedom from torture is absolute: No circumstances ever justify the use of torture or other forms of cruel, degrading and inhuman treatment and punishment-- whether a state of war, a threat of war, internal political instability, or any other public emergency or national security situation.
- Providing assistance to survivors of torture is not charity; it is the law. Article 14 of the Convention Against Torture stipulates the obligation of States to ensure that a victim of torture under their jurisdiction obtains redress, including the means for as full rehabilitation as possible. Rehabilitation, and Redress of survivors of torture are also covered in the Prevention and Prohibition of Torture Act, 2012 (PPTA) or Anti-Torture Law.
- States must take effective legislative, administrative, judicial or other measures to prevent acts of torture in any territory under their jurisdiction. States must also provide effective and prompt redress, compensation and rehabilitation for all torture victims. The state should not forget its mandate of providing the above services to its citizens when in need.
This year the Uganda Human Rights Commission, United Nations Office of the High Commissioner of Human Rights, members of the Coalition Against Torture led by the African Centre for Treatment and Rehabilitation of Torture Victims (ACTV) and other partners have lined up a number of activities in commemoration of 26th, June, 2016 which include;
- A Public Dialogue on the 22nd of June 2016 at Hotel Africana from 8am to 12 noon, which will discuss how to effectively implement the Prevention and Prohibition of Torture Act, 2012 or the Anti-Torture Law.
- A Community dialogue on the 24th of June 2016 in Kawempe division (North) to create awareness to the public about existence of the Anti-torture law and how to utilise it, and
- Candlelight service on Sunday 26th June 2016 at the KCCA grounds adjacent to Game Stores, Lugogo, Kampala which will be preceded by a medical, psychological, psycho-social and legal camp which will run the whole day.
In conclusion, the Coalition Against Torture and the Uganda Human Rights Commission encourage the state of Uganda to ratify the Optional Protocol to the Convention Against Torture. (OPCAT). Article 3 of this OPCAT provides for accessibility of places of detention by human rights monitoring bodies at the national level. This will go a long way in mitigating occurrences of torture with both national and international bodies having unfettered access to places of detention and provide practical solutions on how to reduce torture.
I wish on behalf of our partners in the fight against torture to strongly urge government and all other actors to enhance their commitment to the elimination of torture in all its forms in Uganda and particularly, call upon government to protect, fulfill and uphold its duty to protect and promote human rights and human dignity for all as together we fight against torture.
For God and my country.
Uganda Human Rights Commission
For and on Behalf of the Coalition Against Torture (CAT).