Rehabilitate survivors, bring perpetrators to account!
All protocol observed, ladies and gentlemen.
I take this rare opportunity as chair of the Uganda Human Rights Commission (UHRC) in thanking you for joining hands with us in what seems an impossible dream to many; Rehabilitating survivors and bringing perpetrators to justice. However, the Uganda Human Rights Commission together with the Coalition against Torture in Uganda believes that it is achievable. It is achievable because a human rights cautious society begins with not only talking and walking Human Rights, but by living human rights.
Every year, the Uganda Human Rights Commission (UHRC) together with the Coalition Against Torture in Uganda (CAT) always come together to commemorate the International day in Support of torture survivors on June 26th. The event is intended to raise awareness among key stakeholders, partners, human rights activists and survivors of torture.
The challenges that still looms large:
There are 3 major challenges that continue to hamper effective implementation of the Prevention and Prohibition of Torture Act No.3 of 2012 and the rehabilitation chain of a torture survivor.
- The absence of a witness protection law in Uganda. This is still despite 4 years after being tabled before parliament. It has affected reporting of cases before relevant authorities due to fear of further victimization.
- The state’s delay to ratify the Optional Protocol to the Convention Against torture 2006 (OPCAT). This has defeated the spirit of prevention as opposed to rehabilitating survivors upon the aftermath of torture. Preventing is cheaper than rehabilitating.
- Difficulty by the concerned state institutions in appreciating rehabilitation as a Human Right as opposed to its instrumentalisation as a means to an end.
Objectives of this year’s commemoration
Unlike other years, the UHRC and the Coalition Against torture in Uganda have decided to make this commemoration more torture survivor centred compared to other previous commemorations. The UHRC acknowledges the existence of the Torture Survivors Association Uganda. This association is a component of the rehabilitation process f survivors. This 2018 theme therefore is expected to outlive the commemoration activities and create more impact as the year goes by.
We therefore hope to make the following strides this year;
- To mainstream the concept of Rehabilitation of torture survivors in Uganda and its justiciability in our formal court system.
- To strategise on how to enhance accountability by the state towards advocating for the effective implementation of the Prevention and Prohibition of Torture Act,
- Build synergies within state and non-state actors towards advocating for the full implementation of the Prevention and Prohibition of Torture Act,
- Foster information sharing, equipping knowledge and capacity building through experience sharing and learning among participants on cases of torture and related acts of inhumane treatment.
Let me take you through the build up towards this year’s commemoration day 26th June 2018;
- A Press conference at Human Rights Centre Uganda on Tuesday, 19th June 2018 under the theme: “Human Rights Defenders and torture” was held.
- Another Press Conference was held on Thursday, 21st June, 2018 in Kampala at UHRC head offices under the theme: “Rehabilitate survivors, bring perpetrators to account.”
- A community medical, legal and psycho-social camp was held on Thursday, 21st June 2018 at Old Kampala primary school playground by the Refugee Law project under the national theme: “Rehabilitate survivors, bring perpetrators to account.”
- Another community dialogue together with a legal aid camp on Monday, 25th June, 2018 was held yesterday in Kitintale at Kampala Capital City Authority (KCCA) grounds by ACTV and Human Rights Centre Uganda together with the Torture
- Community dialogues at Gulu and Lacor main markets were held on 22nd June 2018.
- A community dialogue in Kotido district on the 26th of June 2018 was held.
- A football match between boda boda cyclists, CSOs, Uganda Police, CSOs, UPDF and the media was played on the 22nd of June 2018 where Civil Society Organisations lost 5-3 to the boda boda cyclists.
- A public dialogue in Moroto district supported by the United Nations Office on Human Rights on June 26th 2018.
- Besides, traditionally, we have always marked the D-day with a marching procession. This year, 2018 is no different. As I speak, 4 other marching processions are taking place today the 26th of June 2018 in Palabek refugee settlement in Lamwo, Kiryandongo and Adjumani districts and another one in Gulu town.
To mention but a few, these highlighted activities are a clear illustration of national spirit applied in commemorating this year. It is not a Kampala affair. The UHRC and the Coalition against Torture in Uganda will continue the struggle of bringing closer to the survivors of torture the services they need to at least become half human again.
In Conclusion: The commitment we are talking about will not be fought by social media postings and awareness creation sessions alone. This journey needs state and non-state actors as one with a vision for a torture survivor to belong. It is only when Civil Society Organisations and State actors come to the same drawing table that we shall be able to not only rehabilitate survivors in Uganda but also punish the culprits.
For God and My beloved Uganda!
Hon. Med SK Kaggwa
Uganda Human Rights Commission