Uganda: Human rights violations by the National Resistance Army

Report
December 3, 1991

Uganda: Human rights violations by the National Resistance Army


Even where correctly applied, military justice procedures in the NRA at unit level fall far short of international standards for fair trial. In August 1991 the Director of NRA Legal Services informed Amnesty International representatives that in the previous few years the army had begun improving its legal services by appointing legal officers to each Division and Brigade. A shortage of trained lawyers in the army means that so far it has only been possible to appoint lawyers as legal officers at Divisional level - although Brigade legal officers have paralegal qualifications. The role of a legal officer is to advise the unit tribunal, which under the NRA Code of Conduct consists of senior officers and other ranks sitting as a panel of judges, on correct procedure. At the same time it is the legal officer's responsibility to represent the interests of the accused. The prosecution case is presented by representatives of the NRA's Military Intelligence service. Amnesty International is concerned that the legal officer's joint role, that of advising the court on correct procedure and representing the interests of the accused, may constitute a conflict of interests and means that the accused does not have an independent defence counsel.

Amnesty International is also concerned that appeal procedures for soldiers who are convicted are inadequate. Under the NRA's Code of Conduct, each time a military tribunal tries a case a summary of the hearing and sentence are sent to the High Command. The Director of NRA Legal Services told Amnesty International representatives in August 1991 that anyone who is convicted has the right to lodge a written appeal to the High Command against his or her conviction at the same time that the summary of the hearing is sent to them. However, according to international standards, anyone convicted of a crime should have a right of appeal to a higher court, not just to a branch of the executive.(3) The High Command is a branch of the executive and therefore is not in a position to act as a fully independent review tribunal. The NRA's Code of Conduct makes no reference to the basic right to appeal to a higher court or tribunal.


5. Torture and Ill-treatment of Prisoners in Military Custody

There have been persistent reports of the torture and ill-treatment of prisoners held by the NRA. The 18 northern leaders who appeared in court on 7 May 1991 were bruised and dishevelled after being beaten by soldiers before being flown to Kampala. The arm of one prisoner, Zachary Olum, was broken. One of the accused, Irene Apiu Julu, was reported to have had complications with a pregnancy as a result of physical ill-treatment. The case shocked the court-room and wider Ugandan society - largely because the ill-treatment was so blatant and involved senior politicians and community leaders. In this instance good medical treatment was made available to the 18 when they subsequently arrived at Luzira Upper Prison and the authorities announced that the incident would be investigated by the office of the Inspector General of Government (IGG), Uganda's human rights ombudsman. Amnesty International welcomed this announcement and urged the government to take steps to ensure that the IGG's investigating team should produce a prompt report, that the report should be made public, and that it should include recommendations on measures to be taken to ensure that soldiers and law enforcement officials act in accordance with international standards governing the performance of their duties. In a meeting with Amnesty International representatives in August 1991, the Inspector General of Government, Augustine Ruzindana, said he expected the investigation into the allegations of torture to be completed by early September 1991. He indicated that the conclusions would be made public, but that the report produced by the investigating team would not be made public on the grounds that it could prejudice judicial proceedings. By October 1991, almost half a year after the incidents concerned, no conclusions had been announced.