Ugandan President Yoweri Museveni should close all unauthorized detention centers, Human Rights Watch said in a new report alleging state-sponsored abuses in the East African nation.
Museveni’s administration has failed to hold to account security officials who have unlawfully detained and tortured hundreds of government critics over the past couple of years, including around the January 2021 general elections, the New York-based rights group said in a statement Tuesday.
Victims were held in so-called safehouses, intended to protect witnesses, but were instead used as detention centers by security agencies. In one case, a woman who had been held said that an official raped her twice, and she was tied up and left in the same position for 12 hours.
“The Ugandan government has condoned the brazen arbitrary arrests, illegal detention, and abuse of detainees by its officials,” said Oryem Nyeko, Uganda researcher at the rights group. “Urgent steps are needed to help victims, to hold abusive security agents to account, and to end this specter of impunity and injustice.”
The rights group said its findings follow a February 2020 report by the Parliamentary Committee on Human Rights over allegations that security officials had abducted and illegally detained more than 400 people. The government hasn’t taken steps to carry out the committee’s recommendations or to end the abusive practices, according to the statement.
Uganda’s information minister didn’t immediately respond when called to ask for comment on Tuesday.
Human Rights Watch said it sought a response from the Ugandan government before publishing the report.
Museveni, 77, who has ruled Africa’s biggest coffee exporter since 1986, is one of the continent’s long-serving presidents alongside Teodoro Obiang Nguema of Equatorial Guinea, Paul Biya of Cameroon and Denis Sassou Nguesso of the Republic of Congo. Museveni secured a sixth elective term in the January 2021 general elections amid a challenge from Robert Kyagulanyi, a pop star turned-politician, who goes by the stage name Bobi Wine.
At least 54 people were killed as security forces quelled protests against the arrest of Bobi Wine in November 2020. About 130 of his supporters were arrested, only to be released from detention between January and June after a court order, Human Rights Watch said.