Ugandan torturing secret police, FBI allies

This video is called Taking on the Ugandan Anti-Homosexuality Bill.

From the New York Times in the USA:

Ugandan Police Unit Accused of Torture and Killings


Published: March 23, 2011

KAMPALA, Uganda — The Ugandan government has engaged in torture, illegal detention and extrajudicial killings of its citizens, according to a report released on Wednesday.

The report, by Human Rights Watch, focuses on the activities of an agency known as the Rapid Response Unit, a branch of the Uganda police service created to tackle violent crime. The unit has also become an ally of the United States in combating terrorism. Most recently, it helped investigate the terrorist attacks in Uganda’s capital, Kampala, during the World Cup last year, in which more than 70 people died.

The report, compiled over a period of 13 months, contends that members of the response unit, called the R.R.U., have repeatedly broken the law. “Since the unit was established, R.R.U. officers and affiliated personnel have carried out arrests for a wide range of crimes, from petty theft to terrorism,” it said. The unit, the report contends, is “known for practices that flout basic legal safeguards in Ugandan and international law.”

The Ugandan government declined to comment on the report.

Of 77 people interviewed, Human Rights Watch said, 60 said they had been tortured by members of the unit. Common abuses included beatings on wrists, ankles, knees and elbows while suspects were handcuffed in stress positions.

“R.R.U. personnel beat detainees with batons, stick, bats, metal pipes, padlocks, table legs, and other objects,” the report said. “Suspects often said they were forced to sign confessions under duress following torture.”

According to the report, members of the response unit committed six extrajudicial killings in 2010; some people were beaten to death, and some were shot, including one person who was handcuffed when he was shot.

Others were imprisoned without being charged, the group said. Some suspects were transported in the trunks of unmarked cars, or severely beaten, the report said.

Mustafa Ssendege, 35, a former security guard and a father of seven, was detained with two others by three officers from the unit after a robbery last August at a house he was guarding; a DVD player and two cellphones had been taken, according to the report.

He was initially told he was only a witness. But after spending two nights in a police station, the three men were taken back to the house, where they were tied up and beaten repeatedly with metal pipes while the unit’s officers told them to confess, the report said.

The men insisted that they were innocent. One of them, Frank Ssekanjako, finally collapsed to the ground.

“He said, ‘Instead of beating me, why don’t you just shoot me to die,’ ” Mr. Ssendege quoted Mr. Ssekanjako as saying, according to the report. “And the officer said, ‘No, you will die from the beatings.’”

Human Rights Watch described the response unit as the “preferred unit” for those seeking arrests or confessions “by any means.”

“In cases we looked at by R.R.U., suspects were beaten until they confessed, paraded before journalists and dubbed hard-core criminals and then put on trial before military officers,” said Maria Burnett, a researcher for the group in Uganda. “In these circumstances, there is no presumption of innocence and little chance of a fair trial.”

The report’s findings could be a cause for concern for the United States, which is a strong ally of Uganda and a partner in trying to counter emerging terrorist threats in East Africa.

The F.B.I. sent 60 agents to Uganda to help investigate the bombing during the World Cup.

“There were scores of arrests after the bombing, by various groups, units and factions within the security services in Uganda, both police and military,” Ms. Burnett said. “Some clearly faced mistreatment and illegal detention — in some cases three months without charge in police custody.”

In at least once instance, Human Rights Watch said, response unit officers working with F.B.I. agents in Kampala threatened a man who had refused to be an informant for the F.B.I.

“The United States continues to encourage Ugandan security services to respect human rights and the rule of law in pursuit of justice,” the American Embassy in Kampala said in a statement on the report. “We routinely work with the military and law enforcement to enhance the professionalization of these services and will continue to do so.”

This article has been revised to reflect the following correction:

Correction: March 23, 2011

An earlier version of this article misstated the source of a statement made by Mustafa Ssendege about an assault he says he experienced. He made the statement in an interview with a Times reporter, not in a Human Rights Watch report.

3 thoughts on “Ugandan torturing secret police, FBI allies

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