Kampala — Government has failed to provide accountability for torture and extrajudicial killings in the country, Human Rights Watch (HRW), has said in latest report.
Despite government commitments to hold security forces accountable, HRW found that many investigations into military and police abuse of civilians failed to progress, including an inquiry into the November 2016 killing of more than 100 civilians in Kasese District.
Citing former Inspector General of Police Gen Kale Kayihura, as an example, the body accuses government of failing to bring more serious charges against the embattled army general despite what it says is credible evidence against him.
"No charges have been brought against him [Kayihura] for commanding units involved in torture or extrajudicial killings, despite credible allegations of such crimes during his leadership," the report reads in part.
Following his sacking and subsequent detention, Gen Kayihura was brought before the General Court Martial and charged with failing to protect war materials, failing to supervise police officers and abetting the kidnap and forced repatriation of Rwandan refugees. He has since been released on bail.
Other senior police, military officers and civilians arrested and detained on related charges remain in custody.
"Do they have evidence of extrajudicial killings in the country? I haven't seen the report myself but if they are not indicating specific cases then as usual they are rumour mongering. You cannot take somebody to court without a charge that is clear, understandable and readable," Col Shaban Bantariza, the deputy executive director Uganda Media Centre said.
On torture, Col Bantariza said the country has Uganda Human Rights Commission and wondered if HRW was raising anything new that UHRC has not.
The 674-page report highlights a number of incidents including the fracas that followed the Arua Municipality by-elections.
"Police and military shot and killed at least six people in Kampala, Mityana, Katwe and Gomba in protests against security forces' abusive conduct in the period around the Arua by-election," the report notes.
The report further highlights issues relating to incidents of forced evictions especially in Apaa, northern Uganda. It further outlines concerns on the freedom of expression and assembly citing, the attack on journalists, the implementation of the social media tax and an April 29 Uganda Communications Commission directive to shut down unauthorised websites.
In the Horn of Africa, where Uganda falls, HRW says there are clear patterns of government repression against peaceful protesters, activists, and journalists.
Governments in the region including Sudan, South Sudan, Somalia, Ethiopia, Kenya, Tanzania, and Eritrea have been urged do far more to protect freedoms of expression and association, and provide justice for crimes by government security forces.
Mr Mausi Segun, Africa director at Human Rights Watch said, "Ethiopia stands out as a counter-example to this regressive trend."
Not enough investigations
The issue of robberies and raids on NGO offices once again features in the HRW report with the body faulting police for not doing enough to investigate the cases and bring the perpetrators to justice.
Meanwhile, HRW has lauded Inspector General of Police, Okoth Ochola for the changes he instituted at the notorious Nalufenya detention facility which had become synonymous with torture and other human rights abuses.
Mr Ochola who replaced Gen Kayihura has also been praised for taking action against the Flying Squad Unit of the police which at the time of its disbandment had been implicated in allegations of extortion, torture among other things. The unit's immediate former commander, Herbert Muhangi, and several other operatives are locked up.