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Rights Activists Concerned by Increasing Torture Cases in Acholi Sub Region

Francis Odongyoo, the Executive Director of Human Rights Focus (HURIFO) disclosed that some of the cases include the torture of Emmanuel Olanya, a resident of Bardege-Layibi division by armed Uganda People`s Defense (UPDF) soldiers and Local Defence Unit (LDU) personnel on June 21st, 2021 under the command of Lieutenant Colonel, Hillary Onekalit that was captured on video.
A video grab of armed UPDF soldiers and LDU personnel torturing Emmanuel Olanya

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Human rights activists have expressed concerns over the rising cases of torture and rights violations in the Acholi Sub Region. They include Human Rights Focus (HURIFO), Uganda Human Rights Commission and African Centre for Torture Victims (ACTV).    

The activists note that the cases of torture and rights abuses are being perpetrated by both the security personnel and community members. Speaking at a joint press briefing at the Northern Uganda Media Club (NUMEC) in Gulu City on Tuesday, the activists noted that they are currently pursuing justice for more than 20 torture victims in the region. 

   

Francis Odongyoo, the Executive Director of Human Rights Focus (HURIFO) disclosed that some of the cases include the torture of Emmanuel Olanya, a resident of Bardege-Layibi division by armed Uganda People`s Defense (UPDF) soldiers and Local Defence Unit (LDU) personnel on June 21st, 2021 under the command of Lieutenant Colonel, Hillary Onekalit that was captured on video. 

In the nine minutes video, armed UPDF soldiers and LDU personnel are seen beating Olanya and two others severally with a wire lock, sticks and trampling on them while pouring water on them for over two hours for alleged of a battery belonging to Lt. Col. Onekalit`s vehicle.      

//Cue in: ‘’On the 21st …      

Cue out: …by his torturers,’’//   

Odongyoo says the case was reported to the Human Rights Office in Gulu City and Gulu Central Police Station under SD: 26/7/7/2021 but no actions have been taken by the police. The suspects are still at large.  He narrated another incident, in which two police officers identified as Francis Ojok and one Odong assaulted a serving UPDF soldier Corporal Richard Oweka RA Number 18498 attached to Acol Pii on June 10th, 2021 for allegedly returning home with a firearm. Oweka was on official pass leave.    

The soldier suffered grave bodily injuries including a broken ankle and internal organ damage. Odongyoo notes that the matter was reported to Gulu Central Police Station under SD: 08/10/6/2021 and suspects where suspects also were summoned but nothing has been done to date.    

//Cue in: ‘’Oweka who was…      

Cue out: …brought to account.’’//   

The activists also cited another case of torture involving Geoffrey Ochen, 23, from Lamwo district on allegations of cattle theft. Ochen was tied upside down on a tree and severely beaten with clubs by a mob while pleading for mercy, saying he was innocent. 

The rights groups also identified some cases of torture within detention cells, which included that of Brian Opiyo who was in 2016 tortured to death by fellow inmates at Gulu Main Prisons under the watch of prison warders and three other cases from Kinene Prisons involving David Ojok, Dominic Anywar and Bosco Okello, who succumbed to torture.  

Odongyoo denounced the acts of torture and human rights abuses, saying it is unacceptable and called upon everyone to report to the relevant authorities for a torture free Uganda.    

//Cue in: ‘’in Acholi Sub…      

Cue out: …inmate Okello Bosco.’’//   

Alfred Oketayot, the Programs Manager African Centre for Torture Victim (ACTV) rallied everyone to join hands in the fight against torture. He also asked the law to use its iron fist against the perpetrator of torture in the country in all forms. 

 

//Cue in: ‘’human beings are…      

Cue out: …learn from them.’’//   

 

The Aswa Region Police Spokesperson, David Ongom Mudong says that the cases are still under investigation. He, however, says that some cases like that of Lamwo are challenging because witnesses including the local chairperson shied away after being intimidated by the suspects. 

Agnes Apiyo, a resident of Gulu City, who in 2015 lost her son Brian Opiyo to torture from Gulu Central Prisons told URN on Tuesday that she is still carrying the agony of losing an able son much as the court in June this year awarded her compensation of twenty-million-Shillings in damages and death of her son.   

Last week, President Museveni cautioned security personnel against torture and noted that he will deal with those implicated in such actions. The activists have asked Museveni to walk his talk and act against human rights violators, many of who are in government forces.  

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