• March 24, 2011
  • News & Analysis
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HRW: Ugandan police unit that cooperated with FBI responsible for torture and killings

“They handcuffed me and beat me with a [glass] Coke bottle. They beat my friend too. They hit him in the ears a lot. As they were talking they would slap me, saying “tell us where the gun is,” hitting me in the ankles, face, ears and elbows. We went to the RRU office. They took my money from me – about 70,000 shillings [about US$30]. They took us back to our home – searched the house and started torturing me again.”
– Ugandan man testifying about his time in the custody of Ugandan police Rapid Response Unit

Our friends at Human Rights Watch released a report yesterday documenting how the Ugandan police Rapid Response Unit (RRU) frequently operates outside the law by carrying out torture, extortion, and in some cases, extrajudicial killings. Human Rights Watch called for Ugandan authorities to urgently open an independent investigation into the unit’s conduct and activities and hold accountable anyone responsible for human rights violations.

“In cases we looked at by RRU, suspects were beaten until they confessed, paraded before journalists and dubbed hard-core criminals and then put on trial before military officers,” Maria Burnett, a Human Rights Watch researcher in Uganda, told the New York Times. “In these circumstances, there is no presumption of innocence and little chance of a fair trial.”

The report also documents cooperation between the RRU and the U.S. Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI), which deployed 60 agents to Uganda following the World Cup bombings in Kampala in July 2010. The report asserts that U.S. and international investigators working on law enforcement operations or supporting Uganda’s efforts to bring those responsible for the Kampala bombings to justice should not work alongside or with abusive units such as the RRU.

Read the full report here, or listen to HRW’s Maria Burnett discuss the RRU’s abuses and what should be done to hold perpetrators accountable.

– Paul

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