Dr. Yoshitake Yokokura

The World Medical Association (WMA), the global federation of national medical associations has written to the Speaker of Parliament of Uganda, Rebecca Kadaga, to ensure that all victims who were tortured by security forces in the Arua Municipality by-election get treated by the medical personnel of their choice without government repression.

“We call on you to act as a matter of priority within your mandate to ensure effective access to comprehensive health care to those in need and to allow and ensure that our colleagues can follow their ethical duties to provide medical care in an undisturbed and professional manner without intimidation and repression,” said WMA’s president Dr. Yoshitake Yokokura in a letter dated September 6.

“Some of the victims were arrested while on their way to be examined by the physician of their choice, in violation with medical ethics. One essential ethical principle is the right for every patient “to be cared for by a physician whom he/she knows to be free to make clinical and ethical judgements without any outside interference,” he said.

Dr Yokokura wrote the letter following a complaint to the association by the Uganda Medical Association (UMA).

“Our member, the Uganda Medical Association, has drawn our attention to the pervasive practice of torture in Ugandan detention places,” he said adding that the global association is taking keen interest in MPs Robert Kyagulanyi Ssentamu aka Bobi Wine and Francis Zaake, who currently are abroad seeking medical attention.Bobi Wine is expect to return from the USA tomorrow.

“These two Members of Parliament were both arrested at the airport as they were heading abroad for medical treatment,” he said.

Dr Yokokura in the letter also mentions other victims that were tortured and mistreated by the security agencies as they tried to get medical attention. “Ms. Night Asara and Janet Abola were assaulted during arrest in Arua, and while in custody. They are victim of attempted rape during custody in Gulu Central Police Station § Mr. Shaban Atiku collapsed in police cells and in court. He was denied access to medical attention,” he said.

He said: “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.”

He said 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” (article 2.2 of the Convention).”

Uganda is one of the only10 African countries with anti-torture legislation. We therefore urge you to pursue in this direction and be an inspiring model for other countries by taking immediate and effective measures to prevent and stop such intolerable shaming practices in your country.

“Furthermore, we were informed that the above-mentioned victims are all denied access to specialised health care, while being in pain and in urgent need of care. “The right of everyone to the enjoyment of the highest attainable standard of physical and mental health is a fundamental human right enshrined in article 14 of the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural rights that Uganda has ratified in 1976,” he said.

Adding that any persons deprived of liberty has the right to access to a qualified health professional who can provide health care in compliance with medical ethics, including the principles of confidentiality, autonomy and informed consent. “We draw your attention as well on the United Nations Standard Minimum Rules for the Treatment of Prisoners (the Nelson Mandela Rules) revised by the UN General Assembly in December 2015 and which includes a comprehensive guidance on healthcare in prison,” he said.