Important developments in Uganda & South Africa

Friday, May 11, 2012

A new law which defines and criminalizes torture in Uganda was passed by Parliament on April 26. A week later, on May 3, in South Africa the Prevention and Combating of Torture bill was approved by the cabinet and submitted to Parliament. These new anti-torture laws are important break-throughs for the prevention of torture on the African continent and come after years of efforts by local and international human rights groups.

The APT started its advocacy work for ratification of the OPCAT and criminalization of torture back in 2007. Together with its local partners - the Uganda Human Rights Commission and the NGO Coalition against Torture - and under the lead of the African Centre for Treatment and Rehabilitation of Torture Victims (ACTV), the APT has pressed the government for implementation of the UN Convention against Torture as a first important step. As a result of this process, the APT helped draft the Prevention and Prohibition of Torture bill, which was tabled before Parliament by MP Wilfred Niwagaba.

The new Ugandan anti-torture law provides for severe sanctions against perpetrators and compensation for victims. It also regulates the use of information obtained through torture and reconfirm that there are no excuses for torture what so ever.

APT's Africa Programme Officer, Jean-Baptiste Niyizurugero, attributes this success to a collective effort and strong lobby for the bill on the grass roots level.

"Now the law needs to be endorsed by the President and the State must move towards promotion and effective implementation", he said.

In South Africa, a similarly positive development has resulted in the Prevention and Combating of Torture bill, which now has been approved by the cabinet and submitted to Parliament for adoption. The draft bill has been widely shared with national stakeholders - a consultative approach which should be encouraged for other countries. Recently, experts have warned that torture is on the rise in South Africa. APT's national delegate, Amanda Dissel, said in an interview last week that until now, torture cases have not been dealt with, with the seriousness they deserve.

The new bill proposes that the penalty for torture is imprisonment, without the option of a fine.