The failure of Ugandan government to hold security officials accountable for the alleged detention and torture of hundreds of government critics and protesters has been condemned in a report by Human Rights Watch (HRW).
Thirty-four former detainees and witnesses were interviewed by the rights body, detailing incidents of forced disappearances, detention in non-designated places, known as “safehouses”, and torture.
HRW says those detained were held in various places, including a room in the basement of the parliament building, residential properties around the capital, Kampala, and an island on Lake Victoria.
One woman told researchers that security agents had raped her twice, and she had been tied “as if crucified” and left in that position for 12 hours.
Oryem Nkyeko, the HRW’s Uganda researcher, said that the government had condoned the brazen arbitrary arrests, illegal detention and abuse of detainees by its officials.
Forced disappearances and arbitrary arrests surged before and after the 2021 general election.
Opposition politicians, their supporters and hundreds of government critics were grabbed by uniformed and armed men and thrown into unmarked vans, which have come to be known locally as “drones”.
Popular government critics, like writer and activist Stella Nyanzi, author Kakwenza Rukirabashaija, and even members of parliament have been grabbed from their homes and held incommunicado for days, only to be produced in court later.
The government has not responded to HRW’s report, but officials have on several occasions insisted that there are no safehouses in Uganda.