Annual Report: Uganda 2004

May 28, 2004

Annual Report: Uganda 2004

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In mid-June the LRA expanded its activities to the districts of Katakwi, Soroti and Kaberamaido. The humanitarian crisis spread to these areas in addition to Gulu, Kitgum, Lira and Pader, increasing the number of internally displaced persons to over 1,200,000 by October. In response to the LRA's advance, bands of local vigilante youths – the "Arrow Boys" in Teso and the "Rhino Boys" in Lira – organized and armed themselves with the support of the UPDF to hunt down LRA fighters. The increased insecurity in Pader, Gulu and Kitgum gave rise to "night commuting", the practice of parents sending their children to sleep in the open in urban areas, walking up to five kilometres each way morning and evening, to avoid abduction.

The use of helicopter gunships and air bombardments to force the LRA out of hiding continued throughout the year. Civilians were killed during such attacks.

Death penalty
At least 432 people were under sentence of death. No executions of civilians took place. Government and military officials repeated their readiness to execute soldiers as a disciplinary measure to safeguard state security; at least three soldiers were executed.

In July, 398 death row inmates, including 16 women, filed a petition before the Constitutional Court challenging their death sentences on the grounds that they were unconstitutional, inhuman and degrading.

The petition was based on Articles 24 and 44 of the Constitution prohibiting any form of torture or cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment and punishment. The Attorney General opposed the petition.

• On 3 March, three UPDF soldiers were executed by firing squad in circumstances where the swiftness of their trials, without any possibility of appeal, constituted a denial of the right to a fair trial. Private Richard Wigiri was executed in Kitgum Matidi Township, near Kitgum, after a military court found him guilty of murdering a civilian in December 2002.

Privates Kambacho Ssenyonjo and Alfred Oketch were executed after a military court near Kitgum found them guilty of killing three people on 4 January 2003.

AI country reports/visits
Uganda: Soldiers executed after unfair trial (AI Index: AFR 59/004/2003)
• Uganda: Urgent need to end torture following death in custody (AI Index: AFR 59/009/2003)
• Uganda: Open letter to all members of parliament in Uganda urging rejection of the impunity agreement with USA concerning the ICC (AI Index: AFR 59/008/2003)

AI delegates visited Uganda in March. In October AI's Secretary General travelled to the DRC, Rwanda and Uganda to meet senior government and UN officials, survivors of human rights abuses, human rights activists and international humanitarian agencies.