ACTV Works towards a Uganda Free of Torture
Authorities in charge of security are widely using torture in Uganda. Government officials have admitted the use of torture, despite international conventions against torture. KIOS’ supported ACTV works both with victims of torture and with authorities using torture in order to prevent its use. ACTV has reached visible results through its work.
Torture by the police and other security forces is rampant in Uganda. A few years ago the Ugandan defense minister officially admitted that the country’s security forces use torture as a means of attaining information – despite the fact that the country has ratified the International Convention Against Torture. The African Centre for Treatment and Rehabilitation of Torture Victims (ACTV), founded in 1993, provides treatment and rehabilitation for torture victims, and works to prevent the use of torture by Ugandan security personnel. KIOS has been funding ACTV’s work since 2005.
“I was taken into a room where they said they were going to install ‘speed governors’ in my legs… After four hours they told me to stand. I could not.”
Some of ACTV’s clients are prisoners, while others approach the Centre after experiencing torture in the hands of the police, local defense units or the army. The clients are provided with holistic treatment, carried out by a team including a doctor, a nurse, a trauma counsellor and a physiotherapist. ACTV also provides torture victims with legal aid for filing complaints. During 2006, the Centre provided assistance to new1145 torture victims. Of these, 258 were new clients treated in prisons, of whom 40 were female.
In 2006, ACTV visited altogether 16 regional and government prisons. The prison visits act as a safe-guard for the human rights of prisoners and detainees, as was shown by a recorded improvement in conditions at some of the facilities to which ACTV had access during 2006. Overall, reports of torture have decreased in a number of regions in which ACTV has had awareness-raising activities.
“I never knew. What I thought was a legitimate part of this job is actually torture.”
ACTV aims to prevent torture by training soldiers, police officers, prison guards and security authorities. In 2006 ACTV conducted training for altogether 629 security personnel, including 124 women. After the training sessions, some participants reported to the Centre that learning about torture and human rights had inspired them to change their way of dealing with prisoners and detainees. Besides educating security professionals, ACTV has innovatively used the media to reach out to the general public. In 2006, the Centre gave out radio messages, participated in talk shows, and prepared a documentary that was aired on Ugandan national television.
ACTV strives to maintain good working relationships with relevant Ugandan authorities, so as to facilitate access to government prisons. Such relationships enable the Centre to effectively advocate for enhanced legal and institutional measures against torture. ACTV also links up closely with other human rights actors in Uganda, sharing relevant information with other organisations working to promote Ugandan people’s freedom from torture. In May 2007 the KIOS board granted ACTV 89 300 euros for a two-year project during which the Centre will supplement its previous activities by training local leaders, court representatives and members of the Ugandan Parliament’s Constitutional Committee.
- African Centre for Treatment and Rehabilitation of Torture Victims