The European Union (EU) Special Representative for Human Rights, Eamon Gilmore, has said that he is horrified by images of people tortured by the Uganda security forces.
Speaking to selected journalists at Sheraton Hotel Kampala after meeting with President Yoweri Kaguta Museveni, Gilmore said that it is unacceptable that Ugandans continue to be subjected to torture and other degrading treatments at the hands of their own government.
He said he made it clear to President Museveni that such actions of torture are not only barbaric but also have no place anywhere in the world let alone in a country that calls itself a democracy.
Gilmore, who also met representatives from the civil society, the media, victims of torture, the Leader of the Opposition in Parliament, Mathias Mpuuga, and other government officials, said that the government must ensure that there is an end to forced disappearances, detention in safe houses and other non-gazetted areas and trial of civilians in military courts.
He called upon the government to hold accountable any individual who is accused of violating human rights.
This, he said, will then show the government’s commitment to ending torture. In the meeting, Gilmore said Museveni told him he equally abhors any form of torture and vowed to continue fighting it.
Before, during, and after the 2021 general election, Uganda witnessed a spike in cases of torture, forced disappearances, illegal detentions, and killing of people mostly supporters of then opposition presidential candidate, Robert Kyagulanyi Ssentamu-Bobi Wine.
Gilmore called upon the government to prosecute all persons who participated in the November 2020 killings that resulted in the death of at least 54 people who were protesting following the arrest of Kyagulanyi.
Asked whether, like the United States of America, the EU will impose sanctions against those suspected of abusing human rights, Gilmore said this was not up to him but to the 27 EU member states.
“Mine is to write a report which I will present to the EU and it’s them to determine what kind of action they will take,” Gilmore said.
Gilmore also expressed concern over the number of girls who were unable to return to school after the almost two-year Covid-19 lockdown.
He said the government should ensure that girls who are pregnant and those who are lactating are not left out of attaining their right to education.
On the current war in Ukraine, Gilmore called upon Uganda to support a resolution tomorrow that aims at suspending Russia as a member of the United Nations Human Rights Council.
He said this is the only way that the world will affirm the idea that human rights violations and aggression against another country is unacceptable.
For almost a month now, fighting has been going on in Ukraine after Russia attacked it against the advice of most major powers.
In a resolution at the United Nations General Assembly that aimed at condemning Russia’s action last month, Uganda abstained from voting for or against the resolution.
Asked whether the EU, a close ally of Ukraine took an issue with Uganda’s abstention, Gilmore said much as Uganda has a right to vote as it wants, it’s important that the world speaks out with a unified voice.