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After photographs of author sparked outrage, EU demands end to torture in Uganda

FILE PHOTO: Ugandan author of "Greedy Barbarian" Kakwenza Rukirabashaija reads the book at his home in Iganga district in Eastern Uganda May 11, 2020. REUTERS/Abubaker Lubowa//File Photo/File Photo

After photographs of a newly jailed author with marks on his body appeared in domestic media, sparking popular indignation, the European Union urged punishment for perpetrators of torture in Uganda on Monday.

The news: Last week, photographs and stories of award-winning author Kakwenza Rukirabashaija, 33, were revealed in the media, in which he described how he was tortured by security forces during his confinement.

  • The EU delegation in Uganda expressed solidarity with the public outrage over “reports of torture, arbitrary arrests, enforced disappearances, harassment as well as attacks against human rights defenders”.
  • “Those who violate the laws of Uganda should be held accountable and personally liable for their actions,” the delegation said in a statement.
  • Fred Enanga, a police spokesperson, did not return a call seeking comment.

What’s going on: President Yoweri Museveni, who has been in power in Uganda since 1986, has long been accused by the opposition, as well as some Western governments and pressure groups, of deploying security forces to intimidate and harass dissidents and human rights advocates.

  • The government frequently dismisses such allegations, claiming that the majority are unfounded, and that those who have committed violations have been punished.
  • Rukirabashaija, a satirical novelist, was arrested on December 28, according to his lawyer, and kept for over a month before being released on charges of criticising long-serving President Yoweri Museveni.
  • According to his lawyer, he was held incommunicado for much of the time in an ungazetted detention facility and was only brought to court after substantial domestic and international criticism, particularly from the U.S. and the European Union.
  • The author informed a news station that he was punched in the stomach, kicked, slapped with pistol butts, and forced to dance for hours, adding that his tormentors tore flesh from various places of his body with pliers.
  • Images of his body circulated on the internet and on television, revealing massive scarring on his back, legs, and other body parts. The photographs sparked considerable condemnation on social media among Ugandans.

What’s important: The U.S. embassy released a statement on Friday requesting that security officials who tortured people be prosecuted.

  • Rukirabashaija informed the TV station that those who apprehended him had asked if he was being funded by some officials at the US and EU delegation embassies.
  • The novelist is best known for “The Greedy Barbarian,” a novel about corruption in a fictional country generally regarded as a satire on Museveni, which won the PEN Pinter Prize for international writers of bravery last year.
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