Uganda: Human rights violations by the National Resistance Army

December 3, 1991

Uganda: Human rights violations by the National Resistance Army

There have also been persistent reports of torture at military barracks and other places where prisoners are held by soldiers in Kampala. Amnesty International has received reports in recent years alleging torture of prisoners held in Makindye and Lubiri barracks and Basima House, the headquarters of the Directorate of Military Intelligence. Prisoners have been tortured while under interrogation about political and criminal offences; in all cases victims were held incommunicado outside any legal framework, with no safeguard whatsoever to protect their right not to be tortured. For example, Haji Abdu Mbogo, a suspect in a case of armed robbery, is reported to have been subjected to a method of torture known as "balance" in Lubiri barracks in June 1990. This entails tying the victim's hands and feet together and then suspending the victim from the wall or from iron bars in a window while he or she is beaten. On 22 September 1990 a civilian, Mande Ntananga, was severely tortured in Lubiri barracks after being arrested by NRA soldiers. He is reported to have been arrested after an argument with some other civilians who then persuaded NRA soldiers to take him into detention. Medical examinations are reported to have revealed injuries consistent with having been beaten and subjected to electric shocks, treatment which led to brain damage. The case received extensive publicity in the Ugandan press and was the subject of investigations by the office of the Inspector General of Government. Some soldiers were arrested, but it is not known if any further action has been taken by the military authorities to bring them to justice. Again compensation was agreed in an out-of-court settlement, but it is not known if any payment has actually been made. Another prisoner held in Lubiri barracks, called Mbabazi, reportedly died in Mulago Hospital on 1 November 1990 as a result of injuries inflicted when he was beaten by soldiers.

6. Reports of Extrajudicial Executions

NRA soldiers have also executed prisoners extrajudicially - without any form of trial - as well as killing unarmed civilians in other circumstances which meant the killings were a gross abuse of human rights. In December 1990 Amnesty International published details of reports of extrajudicial executions in Gulu, Soroti, Kumi and Tororo Districts during 1990.(4) In 1991 there have been reports of further extrajudicial executions in Gulu and Kitgum Districts. Once again the government and the NRA High Command have not acted to prevent extrajudicial executions.

On 16 March 1991 at least five civilians were reported to have been shot dead by troops in Atiak in Gulu District as they tried to leave a rally called by the Political Commissar of the local NRA unit. These appeared to be unnecessary and unlawful killings. Shortly afterwards it was reported that three soldiers had been arrested in connection with the shootings, but since then there has been no report of any of them being brought to justice. Reported killings around Bucoro in Gulu District in April 1991 - and the government response to the allegations - have been described above.

In early April 1991 NRA troops based at Atanga sub-county headquarters in Kitgum District are alleged to have extrajudicially executed at least 35 civilians at Komyoke village. People were reportedly rounded up from the small villages of Ajuko, Komyoke, Lagoti, Lapyem, Lamel and Okinga and assembled at the house of one Omona, apparently to be "screened". It is reported that some of the men were tied kandooya-style,(5) a practice that was officially outlawed in the NRA in 1987. Late in the afternoon, after several hours during which those detained are said to have been beaten and abused, the villagers were ordered to disperse. As they moved away troops opened fire. People who returned the next morning discovered 35 bodies, including those of Santo Alero, the Chairman of the Resistance Committee One (RC I), his son Ochieng, Orach p'Oyuru and Modesto Agaba, all from Lamel; and Aperi p'Ongaba, Okot p'Atuu and Celestino p'Obur, from Komyoke.