The Prohibition and Prevention of Torture Bill

ACTV- Uganda Experience
Samuel Herbert Nsubuga
Chief Executive Officer
African Centre for Treatment and Rehabilitation of
Torture Victims
[email protected]
HEAD OFFICE, KAMPALA Block No. 39, Plot No. 113Owen Road (Off Tufnell Drive),Kamwokya
P.O. Box 6108 Kampala, Uganda Tel: +256 312 263918/ 312 263620 Fax: +256 312 263 919
Email: [email protected] Web:
African Centre for Treatment and
Rehabilitation of Torture Victims (ACTV) is a
Non-Governmental Organisation in Uganda
dedicated to the promotion and protection of
human rights with emphasis on the treatment
and rehabilitation of survivors of torture .
ACTV commenced operations in 1993 and
has two out-patient Medical centres, one in
Kampala-Central Uganda and the other in
Gulu-Northern Uganda.
ACTV provides Holistic care to Torture Survivors,
both Ugandans and Refugees, which entails
physical treatment ,psychological treatment,
psycho-social counselling, nursing care and legal
advice. We also make referrals for specialized
treatment and legal redress to our partners,
health institutions regarding the former and
UHRC regarding the latter , for example.
Our holistic team includes Doctors, psychologist,
counsellors, physiotherapists, social workers,
nurses and legal officers.
ACTV is one of the 145 torture treatment
centres across the globe accredited to the
International Rehabilitation Council for
Torture Victims (IRCT), a global network in 74
ACTV is also the Current Chair of the
Coalition Against Torture (CAT), a grouping
of nine Civil Society organisations who
together with the Uganda Human Rights
Commission collectively advance Anti-Torture
causes in Uganda.
The Coalition Against Torture (CAT) was set up in
November 2004 as an initiative of Civil Society
Organisations in Uganda whose overall goal is to
enhance the capacity of Human Rights
organisations to effectively advocate for Human
Rights using reliable and systematically collected
Uganda being party to the International legal
instruments which outlawed torture and made
freedom from torture a non-derogable right felt
that it needed to go the extra step to
domesticate the Anti-Torture legislation and
hence the birth of CAT to lead this process.
The common adage that “ Prevention is better
than Cure” comes into play critically in the
work ACTV does. The seven year journey
since CAT was formed was basically to
criminalise Torture in Uganda by having an
Anti-Torture Law in Uganda.
This process included sensitisation of various
stakeholders, most importantly in the Justice,
Law and Order Sector (JLOS).
These institutions include but are not limited
to the Uganda Police, who still lead the list of
perpetrators[see UHRC Annual reports over
the years), the Uganda Peoples Defence
Forces, the Uganda Prisons Service and all
levels of the Judicial system.
The Executive and the Parliament of Uganda
were also sensitised in this period with the
latter having the mover of the Prevention and
Prohibition of Torture, 2010 bill, Hon. Wilfred
Niwagaba coming from its midst.
The Prevention and Prohibition of Torture,
2010 bill was passed by the Parliament of
Uganda on April 26th 2012 and now we await
its assent by the President in order for it to
become law.
Over the last seven years before this
momentous achievement ,the Bill has been
disseminated to the various stakeholders
outlined earlier. The provisions in the Law will
go a long way in Preventing occurrence of
Torture by the would be perpetrators.
Internationally Criminalizing torture
and affirmation of the non- derogable
nature of this right with strong
deterrent penalties up to life
 Expounds the offense of torture beyond
state actors to include non-state actors.
 Emphasizes Individual responsibility for
perpetrators for the offense and
resultant reparations.
Places responsibility for Rehabilitation services
on the state. Currently, the Civil Society
organisations perform the bulk of treatment and
rehabilitation of Torture survivors.
Provides no Amnesty for Offense of Torture
Makes all evidence obtained through torture
inadmissible in court.
Places Jurisdiction of the offense of Torture in
Chief Magistrate’s Court for wider Court
Human Rights Awareness of all the Citizens
to empower them so that they know this vice
and their freedom from torture.
Encourage forwarding Torture complaints to
the Uganda Human Rights Commission.
Training of Security Agencies, Media, Health
Workers, Community leaders about the
Concepts of Torture , its effects and the legal
framework is also a prevention mechanism.
Activism: Press releases, reports, use of
international and regional mechanisms.
The protracted nature of sensitising and disseminating
the Anti-Torture bill to various stakeholders mentioned
above required large financial outlay, one of the major
reasons why it took over seven years for it to be passed
by Parliament. Two benchmark visits by the MPs to
Burundi and Philippines fully funded by Development
Partners formed the bulk of the funds required.
Financial support from the arms of Government was
negligible stalling the process of passing the bill.
Specialised Medical Treatment is financially prohibitive,
that is surgical operations, and hence many a time,
clients are not treated because of this funding gap.
Being that now the Anti- Torture legislation is in place, the
three arms of Government, Executive, Judiciary and
Legislature should consciously create awareness of Torture
prevention measures which are clearly spelt out in the Bill to
the Public or facilitate the dissemination of the same by
providing funds for this important activity. They should
commence with disseminating to their respective institutions.
The time is now to put all that is needed at the various arms
of government so that implementation of the law is effective
and this requires funds for this exercise budgeted for.
Rehabilitation of survivors of Torture should also be
consciously included in the Workplans and budgets of the
hospitals and health centres.
The Grassroots, or the Public in general and
the Survivors of Torture in particular should
have been involved more in developing this
Anti-Torture legislation. There may be some
issues which we, the CSO’s and Government
may not have captured to make it a better
Achieving the positive result of having the
Anti-Torture Bill passed was first of all
making sure we created avenues of
engagement with all the stakeholders
mentioned especially in areas of Training and
Awareness raising about the Bill. Constant
and constructive engagement with the Police,
Army, Prisons, Executive, Parliament and
Judiciary made the difference.
Secondly, having a champion come forward, in this
case, Hon. Wilfred Niwagaba, to front the bill also
was a plus. Being that the bill was passed with
minimal debate also illustrated that the
dissemination and sensitisation of the MPs was
Thirdly, the Uganda Human Rights Commission
should be mentioned here in that they were
extremely forthright and focused towards attaining
this Anti-Torture legislation and the Annual reports
which always illustrated Torture as the top Human
Rights violation would back them to pursue this
cause to its logical conclusion.
A National Human Rights Commission which has
rapport with the Government would be an
excellent starting point. Take note that it should
have teeth to inform government that it is not
abiding to the international Human Rights
standards and be firm to tell them to correct
their ways.
Constructive engagement of the Civil Society
Organisations and the National Human Rights
Organisations with the Security agencies who are
usually the main culprits and try not to have a
blame game.
In a nutshell, with the collective voice and
support of the respective National Human
Rights Organisations, the Civil Society
organisations and the Governments,
Prevention of Torture on our beloved
continent would go a long way in putting us
on the path to a “ World free from Torture”

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