By Lisa Vives
Senior military commanders, including the son of President Yoweri Museveni, have been named in a case before the International Criminal Court for a wave of abductions and torture—adding new charges to claims levelled by opposition politician Robert Kyagulanyi, the former reggae singer known as Bobi Wine.
Prosecutors at the ICC are already reviewing an early submission from Wine that described widespread human rights abuses before presidential polls held in January.
Wine’s National Unity Platform party has said that more than 600 members and activists were detained by masked men in vehicles making them difficult to identify. But according to lawyers and victims of the detentions, the Special Forces Command is to blame for many of the abuses.
The SFC, commanded by Lt. Gen Muhoozi Kainerubaga, Museveni’s son, is named in the complaint along with several senior officers.
“In Uganda today, the civil function is subverted in favour of the military that patrols all towns and cities,” the complaint alleges. “The military maintains power of arrest over civilians who are held on vague and indeterminate charges.”
Some detainees have had their joints or genitals beaten with wires, have been burned with cigarettes or had fingernails torn out, as described in the complaint. At least one detainee died in custody and many of those abducted have suffered significant and potentially lasting physical and psychological harm.
While the President has denied most of the charges, he acknowledged the killing of a few terrorists. “Because of misbehaviour and plans to stop the elections, the security forces deployed heavily. In the case of Kampala, we brought in a commando unit that had been exemplary in Somalia. They killed a few terrorists who were here,” he said.
A U.S. attorney, Bruce Afran, drew up the new complaint on behalf of Bobbi Wine.
The US provides almost $1 billion annually in development and security aid to Uganda. This month the secretary of state, Antony Blinken, announced that visa restrictions would be imposed on those responsible for recent human rights abuses.