Anti-terror unit 'using torture'

GUNS READY: UGANDA's Joint Anti-terrorism Task Team is made up of SOLDIERS, police and other security agencies. © Unknown.
GUNS READY: UGANDA's Joint Anti-terrorism Task Team is made up of SOLDIERS, police and other security agencies. © Unknown.

KAMPALA - A Ugandan anti-terrorism unit has detained 106 people illegally over the past two years, torturing many in custody for links to a rebel local group and al-Qaeda, Human Rights Watch has said.

KAMPALA - A Ugandan anti-terrorism unit has detained 106 people illegally over the past two years, torturing many in custody for links to a rebel local group and al-Qaeda, Human Rights Watch has said.

Detainees described how officers of the Joint Anti-terrorism Task Force (Jatt) beat prisoners with whips, canes, chairs and guns, and peppered suspects' eyes and noses with red chillies, the group said yesterday.

"The soldiers started beating me with a black whip. And then one hit me very hard on the back with the flat of his hand.

"It felt like my heart would burst out of my chest," the group quoted a former male detainee as saying.

The New York-based Human Rights Watch (HRW) said suspects were held in a Kampala suburb after arrest.

All but two of the detainees were Muslim, and the majority were never charged with a crime.

"Uganda conveniently uses the broad mantle of anti-terrorism to abuse and torture suspects," Georgette Gagnon, the group's Africa director, said.

The force - comprising members of the police, army and other security agencies - was created to combat the Allied Democratic Forces, a rebel group blamed for a series of bombings in Kampala in the 1990s.

Based on more than 80 interviews, including 25 with former detainees, HRW said three people had been tortured to death.

Uganda's chief of military intelligence, Brigadier James Mugira, who has control over the unit, denied anyone had been killed in custody.

"Nobody can torture someone to death under this government," Mugira was quoted as saying.

He said that his staff was trained by the US, Israel and the UK. - Reuters

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