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Experts: Torture common in East Africa, Congo

August 26, 2014

NAIVASHA, Kenya (AP) — Despite progress in five East African countries and Congo in ratifying the United Nations Convention against Torture, human rights abuse is still prevalent as governments are reluctant to draft and implement local laws, human rights experts said Tuesday.

Successful prosecutions of perpetrators of torture, who are mostly state agents, are still unlikely and in cases where the courts have awarded compensation to the victims of torture, governments appear loath to pay, said the experts who gathered for a conference in the Rift Valley town of Naivasha, 92 kilometers (57 miles) north of the capital, Nairobi.

Victims of torture in Tanzania are criminal suspects and the perpetrators are usually the police, said rights lawyer Fulgence Massawe, who is with the Legal and Human Rights Centre in Tanzania. “Suspects can be seen limping in courtrooms and some carried to the courts by their co-accused from the beatings they got,” he said. Tanzania has not ratified the convention against torture, Massawe said.

In Rwanda, which has ratified the convention against torture, rights abuse occurs but it is not documented, according to Jules Gahamanyi, of the Association for Research and Assistance Mission for Africa.

Torture is widespread in Congo despite the ratification of the U.N. convention and the perpetrators of torture include intelligence officials, police and members of the army, said Kitwe Mulanda Guy of Save the Congo.

In Uganda where police have been photographed recently beating civilians and politicians who protested against the state, cases of torture have reduced but the violations are still prevalent, according to Margaret Sekaggya, an official of The Human Rights Center Uganda. Police and prison authorities are some of the perpetrators, she said, and though the government has ratified the convention against torture and implemented local laws that criminalize torture, implementation of those laws is still a challenge.

“It is one thing passing the law, it’s another thing implementing it. For the time being we don’t have documented cases of people being prosecuted and victims being compensated. We haven’t reached there but that’s where we are going,” she said.

East Africa will face new challenges of torture and human rights in land displacement as governments explore natural resources such as oil and coal, said Peter Kiama, an official of the Independent Medico-Legal Unit, a Kenyan human rights group.

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