Freedom from torture and inhuman treatment

The International Convention on Civil and Political Rights, Article 7 provides thus

No one shall be subjected to torture or to cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment. In particular, no one shall be subjected without his free consent to medical or scientific experimentation.

This is, perhaps, the most important civil right for a human being. Its purpose is to restrain the oppressor and to empower the people to fearlessly demand for good governance. We have already written about freedom from medical or scientific experimentation.

The Constitution of Uganda, for example, reiterates, article 7 as quoted in article 24 which states that “No person shall be subjected to any form of torture, cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment of punishment”.  Article 44 also states that freedom from torture or cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment punishment is a non derogable right. This means there are no circumstances under which a citizen of Uganda should face any form of torture or degrading treatment. It means there are no limits to this right, and it is absolute.

Article 5 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, Article 37 of the Convention on the Rights of the Child and the African Charter on Human and People’s Rights, all provide for freedom from torture.

In a step to further the absoluteness of freedom from torture, Uganda’s parliament passed, on the 26th of April 2012, the Prohibition and Prevention from Torture bill but the President has not assented to it, up to date.

Often, we see torture and inhuman treatment meted on those who oppose the government. Prisoners in police cells and in designated prisons are not spared.

Rule 1 of the Code of Conduct for the National Resistance Army (NRA), Legal Notice No. 1 of 1986 (Amendment), 23 August 1986, forbids the armed forces from abusing, insulting, shouting at or beating any member of the public.

Lone confinement is considered inhuman and degrading punishment. Whereas law offenders are often confined, such confinement should not be for a long time, except in cases of grave offenders like murderers, terrorists and rapists. Such long confinement must however be confirmed by competent courts of law.

Freedom from torture, however, seems like a fallacy.

Every day, we witness violations of this freedom committed in the open. Whenever there is a protest in the city, a campaign against the government, it is as if the Police are set on the loose to torture civilians.

Whoever is in charge may think that people do not see the torture Uganda’s Dr. Kiiza Besigye faces. Whoever is in charge may think that people did not see pictures of the Kenya Police Force beating women and another of a policeman raising his boot which undoubtedly came crashing on a helpless man’s head, who lay unarmed, on the pavement.

It is a nightmare to deal with the police. It is a death wish to ask a policeman for a reason for ones arrest or the basis of his questioning.

The other day, the country mourned young lawyer Willy Kimani, his client Josephat Mwenda, and  taxi-driver Joseph Muriuri (God grant their soul eternal rest), who died at the hands of the police. A post-mortem report showed they suffered torture before drowning their bodies. Even though Inspector General of Police, Joseph Boinett said “We reiterate that their behaviour is not representative of what the National Police Service stands for and the few rogue elements will always be dealt with firmly according to the law”, nothing has been done to put the police in order.

And amid that, no one feels safe. No one is confident to confront the government or perpetrators of torture, cruel, degrading and inhuman treatment because of the fear of what might happen to them and their families.

That is why we say, knowledge is potential power. Get it at whatever cost. Here, we give it to you at no cost. Are you or do you know anyone who is a victim of torture? Call your lawyer today and seek advice on how to proceed. Remember, there is no justification for torture or any degrading treatment. That right is inherent, and it is absolute. It has no limits.

God save us! God save our nation!

This article appears in our digital law magazine, The Deuteronomy Vol 8, Issue 1 of October 4th 2016

To receive The Deuteronomy in real time, click HERE


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