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World doctors condemn torture in Uganda

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The World Medical Association has rebuked the Government of Uganda, followed reports detainees in the East African nation are being tortured and denied access to specialised medical care.

Dr Yoshitake Yokokura, WMA President, has written to Uganda’s Prime Minister Ruhakana Rugunda to express the WMA’s revulsion at what he described as “the pervasive practice of torture” in Ugandan detention places.

The letter sets out details of the violence and rape that the Uganda Human Rights Commission discovered when it visited detention centres. 

It also reinforces the call from the Uganda Medical Association to respect the rights of patients and to protect doctors documenting and denouncing torture in Uganda.

The letter states: “Torture and other cruel or degrading treatments are one of the gravest violations of international human rights law. It destroys the dignity, the essence of the human being. As physicians, we are revolted by the devastating consequences of this practice for victims, their families and society as a whole, with severe physical and mental injuries.”

The letter calls on Uganda’s Prime Minister to take immediate and effectives measures to prevent and stop such intolerable shaming practices and to be an inspiring model for other countries.

“We have received appalling reports about a number of detainees in Uganda being tortured while under arrest and then denied access to medical attention, even when the Uganda Medical Association has offered to help them,” Dr Yokokura said.

“Such activities are especially disappointing, since Uganda is one of only 10 African countries with anti-torture legislation and is a signatory to the United Nations Torture Convention.

“Torture is unconditionally prohibited by the United Nation Convention against Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment that Uganda ratified in 1987, hereby establishing its consent to be bound by the provisions of the Convention.

“No exceptional circumstances whatsoever, whether a state of war or a threat of war, internal political
instability or any other public emergency, may be invoked as a justification of torture.”

The letter concludes: “We call on you to act as a matter of priority to ensure effective access to comprehensive health care to those in need and to allow and ensure that physicians can follow their ethical duties to provide medical care in an undisturbed and professional manner without intimidation and repression.”