Uganda: Human rights violations by the National Resistance Army

Report
December 3, 1991

Uganda: Human rights violations by the National Resistance Army


There have been many other reports of torture and ill-treatment of prisoners in NRA custody in the north, as well as in barracks in the Kampala area. In late March 1991 people found without proper papers, NRA deserters and those suspected of being rebels, who were imprisoned in a compound belonging to the Ministry of Agriculture in Gulu, were reportedly made to run a gauntlet of soldiers who clubbed them with rifle butts. There have been reports of rape from both Gulu and Kitgum Districts. For example, women are reported to have been raped by soldiers while detained for "screening" at Bwobo in Alero Sub-County of Gulu District in early April 1991. Throughout the year there have been allegations of homosexual rape by NRA soldiers. Although these allegations have yet to be proved, that they are widely believed reflects the widespread fear and suspicion of NRA activities in the north.
A particularly serious set of human rights violations are reported by a several sources to have taken place between 16 and 18 April 1991 in Paicho Sub-County in Gulu District. On these dates people from villages around Bucoro were brought to a temporary NRA camp at Bucoro primary school for "screening". NRA soldiers rounding people up are alleged to have done so in a violent manner, beating some of those held. There were several reports of rape, torture and extrajudicial execution. The elderly Juliana Ayako, her daughter Margaret Abwoyo and Erumalina Amono are all reported to have been raped by soldiers on 17 April in Agung village. Alfonse Lacere Majere of Labongoguru village was executed extrajudicially by firing squad - without any form of trial - after a military uniform was found in his house. At Bucoro school soldiers are alleged to have dug a pit some two metres deep which was overlaid by soil-covered logs. Prisoners were put in the pit and a fire lit on top of the logs. Smoke from the fire is reported to have contributed to the suffocation and death of Rodento Okema from Onyama, Opwonya p'Opige from Labongoguru, Ojabo from Obyela and Ogok p'Larii from Olano. Another man placed in the pit, Justin Okumu, is reported to have escaped from the torture by claiming that there was a gun hidden at his father's house in Onyama. He was taken to the house, but a search failed to locate any weapon. He and his father, who was called Raymondo Okwera, are alleged to have then been beaten to death.

In a meeting with Amnesty International representatives in August, Mrs Betty Bigombe said that she had visited Bucoro after the reports of a "torture pit" became known to her and that there was no evidence that such incidents had ever taken place. However, an on-the-spot visit by a government minister under military escort, while demonstrating official concern, does not constitute an independent and thorough inquiry into the allegations. Amnesty International has been informed that the soldiers left Bucoro on 18 April 1991 and destroyed the "torture pit" before they left, leaving the bodies of the four men inside. Villagers are reported to have removed the bodies for burial, but on 20 April 1991 and two subsequent occasions soldiers are reported to have returned to Bucoro demanding information on who had removed the bodies.

Although the war in the north provides the context for these reports of gross human rights violations, allegations of torture and ill-treatment by NRA soldiers are not confined to the northern operational areas. In late June 1991, 10 men from Bunabulayi village in Bukiende Sub-County in eastern Uganda were reportedly given 30 strokes of a cane daily over a two week period while detained at Rubongi military barracks in Tororo after they were wrongly arrested and accused of attacking an army patrol. When they were released into the custody of the police at Mbale their buttocks were covered with deep wounds. They had not received any medical attention while they were in military custody and the wounds were badly infected. In August 1991 it was reported that the NRA had accepted liability in an out-of-court settlement and had agreed to pay compensation, but it is not known if any payment has yet been paid for these unlawful beatings. Corporal punishment remains a legal punishment that can be handed down by both Magistrate's Courts and the High Court.