19 June 2019

Uganda: Rights Body Accuses Finance of Refusing to Pay Torture Victims

Uganda Human Rights Commission (UHRC) has accused the Ministry of Finance of failing to release Shs5b meant for compensation of victims of torture.

Addressing journalists at their headquarters in Kampala yesterday, Mr Med Kaggwa, the UHRC chairman, without giving the specific number of beneficiaries, said this money has been accumulating over time.

"President Museveni has written several letters to Finance ministry to clear this outstanding amount. I even have some of copies of the letters to this claim, but that has not come through. We have been saying this money should be cleared because you are dealing with people who have suffered, they need treatment. Some of them pass on before receiving this money," Mr Kaggwa said.

The Finance Ministry spokesperson, Mr Jim Mugunga, said they are neither aware of the awards nor have seen the letters.

"I am not privy to the specific cases referred to by the chairman of the commission," he said, adding: "However, in the past, the Ministry has made settlements as required. Broadly, there was guidance to the effect that judicial and all quasi-judicial settlements of this nature would be handled with the clear participation and sign off of the Ministry of Justice [and Constitutional Affairs]. I hope this process was followed. If not, then we shall work with the commission to ensure this is resolved. We are committed to supporting the commission undertake its mandate and deliver justice."

In the past, Justice ministry had ring-fenced 12 per cent of their annual budget for compensation of victims of torture but in 2015, government passed a resolution that said each ministry, department and agency of government will be handling their own issues.

Mr Kaggwa said: "We had been receiving the 12 per cent but since government moved away from this, we no longer get this money for compensation."

Mr Samuel Herbert Nsubuga, the chief executive officer of ACTV, said: "We used these figures to inform UHRC on how to bill and compensate the victims. We treated them and made sure they had been healed."

Torture victims

In the UHRC's report of 2018, it was indicated that of the 3,008 complaints, they received last year, 1,377 were torture victim cases. Another report from the African Centre for Treatment and Rehabilitation of Torture Victims (ACTV) indicated that in a period between 2015 and 2018 they received 4,528 torture survivours of whom 3,293 were male and 1,235 female.

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