Investigate Arua human rights abuses, women lawyers tell UHRC

The Uganda federation of Women Lawyers (FIDA-Uganda) has petitioned the Uganda Human Rights Commission (UHRC) on the continued human rights violations during the recent by-elections in different parts.

In a petition signed by Irene Ovonji-Odida, the FIDA-Uganda chief executive officerficer, the lawyers cited the electoral violence in Rukungiri, Bugiri Municipality and ally, last month’s by-election in Arua Municipality where 34 opposition politicians and supporters were brutally arrested, tortured and charged before courts of law.

“Invariably, the frequency and magnitude of violence and its effects on especially women and children has markedly worsened. In Jinja East constituency, Rukungiri municipality and the most recent exercises in Bugiri and Arua municipality campaigns, we have been left with a citizenry that is both emotionally and physically scarred. In the latter two constituencies, two citizens, Ramadhan Walyendo and Yasiin Kawuma lost their lives to the wanton violence. Over thirty people were violently arrested and detained in Bugiri whereas scores more were savagely beaten and detained in Arua,” the petition partly reads.

Ovonji urged UHRC to give specific focus on the Arua violence where security officers were named in acts of brutalizing suspects especially women leaving some of them bleeding from their private parts.

“Four of those [who were] incarcerated in Gulu were women, one of whom sustained horrendous injuries that cause her to bleed through her private parts whenever she passes urine while another suffered injuries to her pelvic area,” Ovonji stated.

She said that the decision of the authorities that denied the torture victims access to immediate private medical care was in violation of Uganda’s obligations under Articles 20(2), 24 and 33 of the 1995 Constitution; Articles 2 and 5 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, Articles 2 and 7 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, Article 5 of the 1986 African Charter on Human and People’s Rights and Article 2 of the Convention against torture and other cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment.

“The perpetrators of violence have not been held to account despite repeated calls for justice to be served. In addition, the blurred line between the role of the police and armed forces is gravely disturbing. Further, although more than thirty people have been released from detention, the actual figure of those who were detained and others who may still be in detention remains unknown,” Ovonji wrote.

She blamed the violations on the absence of the UHRC in the previous by-elections saying it has exposed the citizenry to untold violence and abuse during and after elections.

FIDA asked the commission to share the findings of the investigations with the public and the authorities since information has since been withheld from the media and human rights NGOs

“We are constrained to raise these issues directly with UHRC which is vested with the powers to investigate and offer timely and independent information on election-related violence under Article 52 of the Constitution,” Ovonji said.

She also asked UHRC to facilitate the process of having the perpetuators of this violence being brought to justice and to ensure adequate compensation and reparation for all violation against the victims.