Uganda: Human rights violations by the National Resistance Army

Report
December 3, 1991

Uganda: Human rights violations by the National Resistance Army


On 23 May 1991 soldiers of the 106 Battalion of the NRA reportedly extrajudicially executed Moses Otii in Kitgum town. Moses Otii, who was a teenage schoolboy, is reported to have been picked up late at night after curfew by an NRA patrol when he left his father's house with his brother to go to an outside toilet. The soldiers began to beat the two boys who apparently panicked and ran towards a nearby NRA roadblock seeking protection. They were caught before they got there, and Moses Otii was forced to the ground and shot three times. His brother was taken to the NRA barracks where he convinced the senior officer on duty that he was not a rebel. This officer is reported to have confirmed that Moses Otii had been shot, to have indicated that the culprit would be arrested and to have reported the incident to the District Administrator. A soldier was reportedly arrested but appears to have been set free two weeks later. Since then there has apparently been no further action either to investigate the incident or to bring those responsible to justice.

International standards, notably Resolution 1989/65 of the United Nations Economic and Social Council adopting Principles on the effective prevention and investigation of extra-legal, arbitrary and summary executions (ECOSOC Principles), which were endorsed by the General Assembly of the United Nations on 15 December 1989, stress the importance of prompt and impartial investigations into reported extrajudicial executions as safeguards to prevent further extrajudicial executions from taking place. Such investigations should lead to the prompt production of reports making recommendations on measures to prevent extrajudicial executions. Amnesty International expressed concern in its December 1990 report that Ugandan Government announcements of investigations into alleged extrajudicial executions over the previous two years had not been followed by the publication of any reports on their activities and findings. The organization drew particular attention to a Commission of Inquiry into allegations of the extrajudicial execution of civilians in Gulu District in late 1988 set up under the office of the Minister of State for the North and East. Despite indications by government officials in mid-1989 and early 1990 that a report would be produced before long, the commission's work appears to have been in abeyance until August 1991 when the commission was re-established with the involvement of three officials from the office of the Inspector General of Government. It has apparently been given the task of investigating allegations of human rights violations by NRA soldiers and other state agents in the north of Uganda between 30 November 1988 and 30 April 1990.

While welcoming the renewed work of this commission, Amnesty International is concerned that for investigations and inquiries to be most effective, and to be seen as an expression of government commitment to preventing future human rights abuses, it is essential that they should be carried out promptly after an incident is alleged to have taken place. If this is not the case, logistical problems in locating witnesses or alleged offenders could become a barrier to effective investigation. The organization is therefore urging the government to initiate prompt and independent investigations into all incidents as they are reported, starting with the incidents which are alleged to have occurred most recently in 1991.