Practice Relating to Rule 99. Deprivation of Liberty
Uganda’s Geneva Conventions Act (1964) punishes “any person, whatever his nationality, who, whether within or without Uganda commits or aids, abets or procures the commission by any other person of any grave breach of the [1949 Geneva] Conventions”.
Uganda’s National Resistance Army Statute (1992) provides for the punishment of a person subject to military law who unnecessarily detains any other person without bringing him or her to trial.
Uganda’s Defence Forces Act (2005) provides that any “person subject to military law, who … unlawfully detains any other person in arrest or in confinement” commits an offence.
In 2003, in its initial report to the Human Rights Committee, Uganda stated:
216. The right to liberty and security of person is enshrined in Uganda’s domestic legislation. Article 23 of the Constitution provides that no person shall be deprived of personal liberty except in the following cases –
(a) in execution of the sentence or order of a court whether in Uganda or another country or of an international court or tribunal in respect of a criminal offence of which that person has been convicted; or of an order of a court punishing the person for contempt of court;
(b) in execution of the order of a court made to secure the fulfilment of any obligation imposed on that person by law;
(c) for the purpose of bringing that person before a court in execution of the order of a court or upon reasonable suspicion that the person has committed or is about to commit an offence under the laws of Uganda;
(d) for the purpose of preventing the spread of an infectious or contagious disease;
(e) in the case of a person below 18 years, for the purpose of the education or welfare of that person;
(f) in the case of a person who is reasonably suspected of being of an unsound mind or addicted to drugs or alcohol, for the purpose of the care and treatment of that person or the protection of the community;
(g) for the purpose of preventing the unlawful entry of that person into Uganda or for the purpose of effecting expulsion, extradition or other lawful removal of that person from Uganda;
(h) as may be authorised by law, in any other circumstances similar to any of the cases specified in paragraph (a) to (g) above.
217. Every individual in Uganda therefore has a constitutional protection as to personal liberty and a person will not be deprived of his or her liberty or be arrested or detained except as authorised by law.
The report further stated:
226. It is a pre-condition of lawful arrest that the person arrested should know the nature of the charge or suspicion for which he is arrested. And it is the duty of the person arresting to inform the arrested person the reasons for the arrest unless, of course, the arrested person creates a Situation whereby it would be impossible to inform him, say, by a counter-attack or by running away.
The Uganda People’s Defence Forces (UPDF)
232. In 1998, the Commission received and investigated 36 complaints against the UPDF, 20 of which alleged deprivation of person liberty. A clear pattern emerged indicating that the army had arrested a number of people, detained them for long periods, and released them without trial. This is contrary to the law. First, the army as an institution has no legal powers to arrest.
Second, army installations are not gazetted places of detention. Finally, this is contrary to the law because many people were detained for long periods without appearing before any court of law.