Annual Report: Uganda 2004

Report
May 28, 2004

Annual Report: Uganda 2004

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• On 24 June about 100 schoolgirls were abducted by the LRA following a raid at the Lwala Girls Secondary School in Kaberamaido district in northeast Uganda. AI was concerned that at least 15 of the girls might have crossed into Sudan where they could be at risk of sexual violence.

Torture and death in custody
Throughout the year operatives from the police, various security agencies and the army, including the Violent Crime Crack Unit (VCCU), the Internal Security Organization, the Chieftaincy of Military Intelligence and the Joint Anti-Terrorism Task Force were persistently reported to have tortured people detained on suspicion of political or criminal offences. Suspects were held incommunicado at unrecognized detention centres commonly referred to as "safe houses".

According to official reports, security forces frequently extracted information through torture and other cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment.

• On 14 June VCCU officers arrested Nsangi Murisidi, aged 29, on suspicion that he had facilitated friends to commit robbery and for alleged possession of a gun.

Relatives tried in vain to visit him in detention. On 18 June the lawyer representing the family received confirmation of his death in custody while at the VCCU headquarters at Kireka, a suburb of Kampala. The death certificate established the cause of death as extensive loss of fluid and blood, severe bleeding in the brain and extensive deep burns on the buttocks. The body also bore 14 deep wounds. In October the Minister of Internal Affairs informed AI that an inquiry had been ordered, but no progress was subsequently reported.

Further restrictions on freedom of expression
Numerous official warnings and directives added to existing legislative limitations regarding the enjoyment of freedom of expression. On 28 February the Defence Ministry and army cautioned media houses and their staff that they would be prosecuted before a military court if they published classified information. On 22 August the Uganda Law Council issued a directive forbidding lawyers from writing articles, speaking to the media or making any other media appearance without the Council's permission. The Council is an official regulatory body which registers all lawyers and can suspend or deregister its members.

• On 22 June police closed the Soroti-based private FM radio station Kyoga Veritasallegedly because it defied a ministerial directive to refrain from broadcasting news about LRA attacks in the region.

• The trial continued of the managing editor, the news editor and a reporter with The Monitor newspaper. They were charged in 2002 with publishing information prejudicial to national security and false information. The charges related to an article alleging that the LRA had shot down an army helicopter in the north.

Harassment of political opponents
On 23 March riot police used tear gas and rubber bullets to disperse a peaceful rally held at Constitutional Square in Kampala by members of the Democratic Party. No casualties were reported. On 1 May police blocked a political rally at Constitutional Square called by the Conservative Party.

Insurgency in northern Uganda
The 17-year conflict in the north showed no signs of resolution despite attempted peace talks between the Presidential Peace Team (PPT) and the LRA, with the involvement of religious leaders. Joseph Kony, leader of the LRA, announced an immediate unilateral ceasefire on 1 March. President Museveni initially rejected it, reportedly after the LRA continued to commit abuses, including abductions, ambushes, lootings and killings, in breach of its own cease-fire. However, shortly afterwards, President Museveni called for a limited cease-fire in areas where the LRA could assemble to hold peace negotiations. On 18 April the PPT revoked the limited cease-fire and talks failed before formal negotiations began. A new cycle of violence started and subsequently intensified.