Uganda: Human rights violations by the National Resistance Army

December 3, 1991

Uganda: Human rights violations by the National Resistance Army

Reports have implicated NRA troops in a series of extrajudicial executions - deliberate and unlawful killings of prisoners or unarmed non-combatants. In March 1991 five civilians were shot dead in Atiak in Gulu District. At least 35 civilians are alleged to have been extrajudicially executed at Komyoke near Lagoti in Kitgum District in early April. In mid-April seven men were reportedly extrajudicially executed in and around Bucoro in Gulu District. In late May 1991 soldiers are reported to have shot dead a schoolboy prisoner in Kitgum town.

Insurgents have also been responsible for serious abuses against civilians. Their activities evidently explain the deployment of the NRA in northern Uganda and provide a context in which human rights have been violated, just as the NRA's own campaign against the army of President Milton Obote provided the context in which tens of thousands of civilians were killed in southern Uganda between 1982 and 1985, particularly in the "Luwero Triangle". In 1991 insurgents have been active in northern Uganda and various groups have committed abuses against civilians. In July 1991 rebels belonging to the United Democratic Christian Army (UDCA) abducted 43 girls from a school in Gulu most of whom have subsequently escaped or been set free. In other incidents villagers suspected by UDCA rebels of supporting the government and assisting the NRA have been killed or mutilated.

2. Background

Since late 1986 the National Resistance Army (NRA) has been fighting a counter-insurgency war against rebels in northern Uganda. Throughout this period there have been persistent reports of gross abuses against the civilian population by both the NRA and the rebels. In various reports Amnesty International has drawn attention to reports of torture and ill-treatment of captives by the NRA, to allegations of extrajudicial executions by the army and to the detention without charge or trial of thousands of "lodgers" - prisoners arrested by the NRA in rural areas by the army and handed over to the custody of the civil prisons service. One entitled Uganda: The Human Rights Record 1986-1989 and published in March 1989, described the full range of abuses reported during President Yoweri Museveni's first three years in power. In 1989 and 1990 thousands of "lodgers" were released from civil prisons, but there remained a significant problem of prisoners being held for long periods without charge or trial in military barracks. Amnesty International also remained concerned that extrajudicial executions were continuing to occur and that the authorities failed to take decisive measures in the majority of cases to prevent further incidents and to bring to justice those alleged to have been responsible for such executions. The organization has been concerned too by the failure of inquiries and investigations ordered by the government or the armed forces and announced publicly to reach a conclusion and to produce reports that make recommendations on measures to prevent extrajudicial executions.