Annual Report: Uganda 2003

May 28, 2003

Annual Report: Uganda 2003

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Head of state: Yoweri Museveni

Head of government: Apollo Nsibambi

Death penalty: retentionist

International Criminal Court: ratified

A new joint anti-crime operation led to killings of civilians by members of the security forces. Civilians arrested during the operation faced trial by military courts. Soldiers reportedly committed abuses during a disarmament operation in the northwest. At least 24 death sentences were passed, and two soldiers were executed. Journalists continued to be subjected to excessive use of force by the police. A new law restricted the activities of political parties. Abuses by the armed opposition Lord's Resistance Army (LRA) increased during the year, but those by other armed groups were reduced.


A Parliamentary Select Committee on election violence concluded that 17 people had been killed during parliamentary and presidential elections in 2001. The Committee recommended that security personnel named in the report for terrorizing and intimidating opposition parliamentary candidates and their supporters should be subject to criminal investigation. The report was not debated by Parliament during 2002.

Relations between Uganda and Sudan continued to improve throughout 2002 with an agreement to resume full diplomatic ties.

A group of several thousand Ugandans living in Tanzania were expelled from Tanzania in 2001 and returned to Uganda allegedly for voting against Tanzania's ruling party in the October 2000 elections. They were resettled by the Ugandan government in 2002, some in the Rakai District, while others were relocated to a camp near the Katuna border with Rwanda.

President Museveni voiced Uganda's strong support for the international "anti-terrorist" coalition led by the USA. The Suppression of Terrorism Act, passed in March, used a very broad definition of "terrorism" and gave extra powers to law enforcement officers to carry out surveillance against suspected "terrorists", including accessing bank accounts and monitoring communications.

Violations by security forces

A new Joint Security Team was formed in June to fight violent crime in Kampala and surrounding towns. "Operation Wembley" brought together the intelligence services, police and the army. Police officers and soldiers were allegedly authorized to shoot criminals on sight, resulting in a dramatic increase in killings by security forces.

Those arrested under "Operation Wembley" were held without charge and screened to decide whether they should be tried by a civilian or military court. Of approximately 450 suspects arrested by November, around 200 were reportedly to face trials before military courts made up of senior army officers.

b On 16 September soldiers raided Gulu Central Prison, northern Uganda, to remove 21 prisoners they claim were to be "rescued" by the LRA. One of the prisoners, opposition activist Peter Oloya, was killed in the prison grounds in a suspected extrajudicial execution. The 20 surviving prisoners were taken to Gulu Barracks where they remained in incommunicado detention until mid-November, when they were moved to Kigo prison in Kampala.

Violence in Karamoja region

There were renewed efforts to bring peace to the pastoralist communities in the districts of Moroto and Kotido in the eastern Karamoja region, long beset by insecurity and cattle rustling. A deadline of 15 February was set for the voluntary surrender of illegal weapons. This was followed by a forcible disarmament and arrest operation, which led to a number of reported killings by the army, and to looting and beatings of civilians in Moroto. Soldiers were reportedly given orders by the Army Chief of Staff to shoot dead any Karimojong warriors who fired at them.

b The army announced an inquiry into an incident of 8 March in which two people were killed and a pregnant woman miscarried in Kotido after reportedly being beaten and tortured by soldiers carrying out the disarmament operation.

b On 4 May, 20 Karimojong and two soldiers were killed during clashes after Karimojong pastoralists reportedly raided another community and stole their cattle.

Death penalty