In follow-up to a humanitarian and human rights assessment mission conducted by the United Nations and non-governmental organizations, the United Nations Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights in Uganda (OHCHR) dispatched a fact-finding mission to Kotido district to inquire into alleged human rights violations since 29 October 2006.
The mission found that in the early morning of 29 October 2006, soldiers from the 405th Brigade of the Uganda People's Defence Forces (UPDF) surrounded the village of Lopuyo, Kotido district, Karamoja, North Eastern Uganda, during a cordon and search exercise as part of the ongoing disarmament process. Members of the Karimojong ethnic group, a pastoralist nomadic population of the region, have in recent years used increasingly violent methods including automatic weapons to steal cattle. Various sources1 indicate that between early morning of 29 October and the evening of 30 October, an exchange of fire between the army and armed Karimojong resulted in the death of 48 people. Information gathered indicates that 26 men, 13 women of various ages and 9 children were killed. According to various sources, approximately 30 UPDF soldiers also died. At least 12 other individuals were injured and testimonies of victims indicate that at least 7 men were subjected to torture and other cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment, and one elderly woman was raped. The soldiers are reported to have caused damage to properties which affected 166 households. Civil servants in Kotido town also reported that their houses were looted by armed Karimojong pursuing the retreating army. As a result, one child sustained gunshot wounds in the process and 702 civil servants and their dependents were displaced in the Kotido district offices.
In the evening of 10 November 2006, the UPDF surrounded the village of Kadokini, Kotido district, during a cordon and search exercise. Eyewitnesses and victims reported that the soldiers ordered the community out of their huts. UPDF tanks then drove through the village crushing and damaging properties, including huts and granaries. As a result, 50 households were affected. Following a request by the soldiers, five guns were handed over by the population. Women were then ordered inside and reportedly 68 men were arrested and taken to the army barracks. At the time of the mission, some of those detained had returned and 7 claimed to have been subject to acts of torture and other cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment. Others still remained in custody. According to evidence gathered, 3 men were killed and one woman and one man were injured by bullets by soldiers during the events.
In the early morning of 14 November 2006, the UPDF attacked the village of Kanawat, Kotido district. In the process, 3 men and one young girl were killed while fleeing their houses, and 3 men and one young boy were injured.
These events demonstrate the indiscriminate and excessive use of force by the UPDF and the failure of the Government of Uganda to take adequate measures to protect all persons under its jurisdiction. The actions of the UPDF do not comply with international human rights law and domestic law. The Government of Uganda has the obligation to protect persons under its jurisdiction from armed elements and to provide adequate security and human rights protection. Similarly, any methods used by the military in carrying out the disarmament process have to be in compliance with international treaties ratified and relevant constitutional provisions. Moreover, there is evidence that UPDF soldiers were responsible for destruction of property, arbitrary arrests and detentions, torture and ill-treatment, extrajudicial, summary and arbitrary executions, forced labour and one case of rape.
Many Karimojong are in illegal possession of weapons and have increasingly engaged in criminal activities, including the killing of an unknown number of UPDF soldiers, at least one policeman and one teacher. Armed Karimojong frequently harass the civilian population, resulting most recently in looting and the displacement of some 700 persons.
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