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In Uganda, the several arms of the Ugandan government involved in refugee protection include the Office of the Prime Minister (OPM), the Special Branch (the security arm of the Ugandan police) and the Refugee Eligibility Committee (REC). Their functions will be discussed in the section entitled "Refugee Status Determinations." UNHCR performs its protection function through its involvement in Uganda's refugee status determination system, and through a range of protection-oriented activities, such as lobbying for improved refugee legislation in Uganda. UNHCR's main implementing partner in Kampala, InterAid, is not involved in assessing the status of refugees, but the agency does provide some services (such as running safe houses for "high profile"249 refugees and asylum seekers) that can help to protect refugees. In April 2002 there were two houses in operation in Kampala where fifteen refugees were living.250

Physical Protection Problems for Newly-Arriving Asylum Seekers

Asylum seekers may spend several weeks or months sleeping outside in Old Kampala. Women and men and people from different nationalities are mixed together, creating risky situations. In addition, several refugees told a Human Rights Watch researcher that alleged security agents from countries of origin are aware that asylum seekers sleep outside in Old Kampala, and they will comb the small gatherings of people to search for individuals they are tracing. The Old Kampala police251 and other NGO staff are aware of how dangerous it is for people to sleep outside. For example, in an interview with a Human Rights Watch researcher, the Director of InterAid admitted "we do need a place here in Kampala for people to sleep safely when they first arrive."252

NGOs repeatedly receive complaints from women and children who are subjected to harassment and abuse while sleeping outside in Old Kampala.253 Lishan W., a twenty-seven-year-old Eritrean woman, told a Human Rights Watch researcher,

But what can I do for myself here in Kampala? There are very bad conditions for a lady alone here. At first InterAid let me sleep in their corridor. They let me sleep there for fifteen days. Now, I have to sleep outside and the police tell me, "you are a lady, it is not good to sleep outside." But what can I do? I have to wear two trousers to protect myself from someone who wants to rape me. Sometimes it is also too cold.254

Rebecca I., a twenty-five-year-old Sudanese woman from Loboni, Sudan, fled with her two small children, Amani, a five-year-old girl and Nada, an eight-month-old boy. The family had been sleeping outside in Old Kampala. She explained,

Now we are sleeping outside of InterAid.... But in the place where I am sleeping outside, the Congolese men who are there are always causing problems for me. They are always pushing me but I refuse them. Every night they come and push at me, but I refuse. One man even beat me because I refused him, and he said, "you are not a woman!" After that man beat me I told the police and they came to warn him and that made that one man stop. But there still are others.... Even at night when I sleep I worry about those men. I cannot sleep with them, it is very dangerous for me.255

Tensions Within the Refugee Community

Refugees' countries of origin are often devastated by armed conflict, and often political or military leaders manipulate ethnic identities as a source of power. As a result, refugee groups sometimes experience internal conflicts. Some of these tensions reflect the divisions in the refugees' home countries, and some are new tensions that arise from different refugee communities living together. Human Rights Watch documented both types of conflict in Kampala-discrimination and violence between clans in the Somali community or between the Hutu and Tutsi in the Rwandan community, as well as tensions between, for example, Sudanese and Congolese, or Somali and Ethiopian refugees.

Refugees subject to discriminatory treatment are without protective networks within the refugee community to help them when problems arise. In the worst cases, physical violence and even death threats can occur. For example, a refugee in his late twenties called Mohammad has a mother who is Ethiopian and a Somali father. Mohammed has been living in Uganda without his parents since November 22, 1993, and has been discriminated against for his mixed background. He explained,

I was sleeping in the street when I first arrived. I slept in the street for three months. I couldn't sleep early if I needed to, I would go to sleep at midnight and wake myself early in the morning. This was because I was caught between two communities in Kampala and each one hated me. The Somalis didn't like me for being from a Christian mother and the Ethiopians hated me for having a Somali father. The UNHCR helped me at first. They gave me a small allowance of accommodation assistance for the first five years.... The resettlement officer at that time was married to a Ugandan security [officer] who told me to be careful and that someone would kill me. I ran from her office because she scared me so much.0

Freedom of Expression and Assembly

The ICCPR provides that everyone, including refugees, possess the rights to freedom of expression and to peacefully assemble.1 As a party to the ICCPR, Uganda may limit the right to freedom of expression, when necessary, to protect public order or the rights of others.2 The right to assemble is contingent upon assemblies being "peaceful" (without violence or threats of violence), and Uganda may also limit this right to protect public order (among other reasons).3

In July 2001, Pierre T., the head of an organization of Great Lakes refugees, "Association des Refugies Francophones" (ASSOREF), wrote a letter to UNHCR sharply criticizing the role of InterAid. On the morning of August 21, 2001, Pierre met with the UNHCR Protection Officer to discuss the letter. According to Pierre, the Officer broadly rejected the claims.4 A group of refugees gathered outside InterAid in order to learn the results of the meeting.5 According to Pierre, when he left the building he explained to the gathering that "nothing" had come of the meeting.6 The refugees became agitated and started to sing angry songs. UNHCR called the police and they arrested four refugees. Pierre was "arrested" by police who pulled him aside and told him to sit quietly and wait. Three others were taken away.

At approximately 2:00 p.m., Pierre was taken to Old Kampala Police Station. He was held in an overcrowded cell for about three days. According to Pierre, he was threatened and beaten by detainees in the police station (he told Human Rights Watch that he believes the police use detainees deliberately to beat up other detainees). After three days of detention, Pierre was taken to City Hall Court, together with two other Congolese refugees who had also been arrested and beaten by co-detainees. After a few hours the three were taken to Luzira prison.

The three refugees were brought before a magistrate and, in a session that was not translated into French, charged with "being idle and disorderly" under Article 162 (I) (d) of the Ugandan Penal Code. Pierre was held for forty-four days in Luzira prison before being released. Pierre explained that another Congolese, Alain H. was beaten so badly in Old Kampala Police Station that he had to be held in the hospital of Luzira prison. Alain was released a few days before the others. He has since left Uganda.

Human Rights Watch also interviewed Claude M., a Congolese refugee who had been one of the leaders of the demonstration and was arrested by the Ugandan police. Claude told a Human Rights Watch researcher that the police had undressed him and beaten him with batons and rifle butts. Claude was then taken to Old Kampala Police Station and detained in a cell he described as "very overcrowded." The next morning he was beaten again. On the third day he was brought before a magistrate. During his hearing, he was represented by the Refugee Law Project. He was then taken to Luzira prison where he was held for forty-four days with Pierre T., and François C.

François C., a third Congolese refugee from Goma present at the demonstration told a Human Rights Watch researcher that he was beaten by other prisoners-those "who act on behalf of the police." As a result of these beatings in detention he has problems in the lower back, with walking, and with carrying things. He told a Human Rights Watch researcher that the incident had affected his concentration: "my intelligence does not function any more."7

When asked about this incident, the UNHCR Representative in Kampala told members of the press and a Human Rights Watch researcher, "refugees are not above the law. We called the police because there was a law and order problem with these individual refugees."8 When asked, he gave no details as to what the "law and order problem" was.

As noted above, refugees have the right to peacefully assemble and to express their opinions, and the Ugandan government should have allowed them to exercise these rights as long as there was no threat of violence or threat to public order. Finally, if local press accurately reported UNHCR's statement at the time that "refugees have no right and authority to stage a demonstration of any kind,"9 then UNHCR also disregarded these rights of refugees.

Country of Origin "Security" Agents10

UNHCR, InterAid, and refugees themselves all acknowledged the presence of alleged security agents in Kampala. All parties spoke openly about the latters' attempts to infiltrate the offices working with refugees. Several Sudanese and Rwandan refugees told Human Rights Watch researchers that they had met security agents from their countries of origin who were waiting with the refugees at InterAid or at OPM.11 These allegations were later confirmed by an official in the Ugandan government, who said to a Human Rights Watch researcher, "In some cases security agents pose as refugees, and we must identify these individuals."12 Officials at InterAid also confirmed that they had received visits from security agents on several occasions, during which the agents asked InterAid to turn over confidential files (something InterAid assured Human Rights Watch that it consistently refuses to do).13

A staff member of a local human rights organization also confirmed these reports to Human Rights Watch: "The Ugandan government cannot protect people living in Kampala. Many SPLA officers live in Kampala. They commit abductions and take young people back to Sudan. Unfortunately, the police send people with complaints to Old Kampala and to OPM, but Sudanese often meet the same people persecuting them at InterAid and at OPM. Therefore, people are not able to express their problems and some don't come forward at all because of fear."14

But these agents are not merely a threatening presence: occasionally they actively hunt and harass individual refugees. While pursuing its military and political objectives abroad, Uganda appears unwilling or unable to control these agents who are operating in Kampala. In some cases, these agents are alleged to be working with the Ugandan police or military. Since so much of this is linked to Uganda's foreign policy, Uganda's relations with three key neighboring countries will be described briefly in the following paragraphs, followed by several refugees' own experiences of harassment by country of origin agents operating in Uganda.

    Uganda's Relations with Refugees' Countries of Origin


Relations between the Rwandan and Ugandan governments were close for several years after the Rwandan Patriotic Front (RPF) took power in Rwanda in 1994 and ended the genocide in which about 800,000 people died. The RPF had very close ties with the Ugandan government as many of its leaders came from the exiled Tutsi community in Uganda and had become an important force within Museveni's15 rebel force, the National Resistance Movement, when it was still fighting against the previous government. As a result, many members of the elite in Rwanda look back on a period of military training in Uganda, and retain close links with the Ugandan military. Rwanda and Uganda joined forces in the DRC (then Zaire) in 1996 to help Laurent Kabila unseat Zairean leader Mobutu Sese Seko, but then jointly invaded the DRC two years later to fight on the side of anti-government rebels.

Over the past few years, tensions between the two governments have risen, however. Increasingly, Rwanda and Uganda are competing, as both governments attempt to maximize their regional influence, military control and economic gains from resource exploitation in the region, in particular in the DRC. Since 1999, Uganda and Rwanda have been supporting different armed opposition groups in the eastern DRC. Uganda sided with the Movement for the Liberation of Congo (MLC) and the smaller Congolese Rally for Democracy-Liberation Movement (RCD-ML), while Rwanda continued to support the RCD's main arm, RCD-Goma.16 The Rwandan-Ugandan conflict broke out most violently in military confrontations between the two armies in Kisangani in August 1999 and in May and June 2000, in which hundreds of civilians were killed. Rwanda managed to keep control over Kisangani, said to be a matter of lingering Ugandan resentment.17

There also seems to be an alienation between the leaders - Museveni and Kagame - and some of their aides, as the Ugandans tended to see the Rwandans as their protégées, but the Rwandans aimed to take on a more independent role. Despite intermittent efforts at improving relations, each side accuses the other of subversion. Uganda charges Rwanda with harboring its opponents and recruiting forces for two exiled Ugandan People's Defense Force (UPDF) soldiers who have vowed to attack Uganda, and with moving its troops into the DRC territory vacated by UPDF forces.18 Rwanda complained in September 2001 that Uganda massed troops along its border (the UN rejected this allegation), and accuses Uganda of harboring inside the Mgahinga Park area of southwestern Uganda Rwandan Hutu rebels who might have been involved in the 1994 genocide in Rwanda, and of allowing them to operate in the DRC.19


Uganda has been involved in Sudan's civil war since 1986, when the current Ugandan government came to power and began its support of the rebel Sudan People's Liberation Movement/Army (SPLA), which has fought the Sudanese government in Khartoum since 1983; since 1989 that government has been controlled by the Islamist political party the National Islamic Front (now National Congress). The SPLA favors a united, secular Sudan, in contrast to the Arab Islamist state now existing. The SPLA is based largely in the southern third of the country but has operations and bases in the Nuba Mountains and in Blue Nile state and other eastern areas of the country.

Kampala insists that its support of the SPLA has been moral, not military. In public comments, President Museveni has said that Uganda "cannot accept the suppression of the southern Sudanese people."20 But Ugandan observers say Uganda provides a haven for SPLA soldiers and at times involves itself directly in offensive actions.21 Financial and other assistance is implied from comments by Ugandan members of Parliament in late 1999 and 2000.22

Kampala severed diplomatic ties with Khartoum in 1995 when a dispute broke out over arms supposedly hidden for the Lord's Resistance Army (LRA, a Ugandan rebel group) inside a Sudanese embassy building in Kampala. Uganda has accused Sudan of backing the LRA in its war against the Museveni government, and of harboring the LRA in camps close to the Ugandan border.23 The LRA is known to abduct children from northern Uganda and force them to fight for the LRA.24 Bomb blasts in Kampala and the discovery of arms shipments from Sudan have also been blamed on Khartoum.25

Some Ugandan Parliament members, along with Sudan's president, have alleged that Uganda's support of the SPLA is directly to blame for Sudan's support of LRA activity.26 The two governments agreed in Nairobi in December 1999 through mediation of the Carter Center to refrain from sponsoring each other's rebel movements, and to restore diplomatic relations.27 Sudan cut some support to the LRA, and the events of September 11, 2001 and the U.S. listing of the LRA as a "terrorist organization" speeded up the process of Sudan's distancing from the LRA. Lack of food supplies began to be noticeable, as the LRA turned to looting food from the southern Sudanese civilian population, many of them Acholi. The governments of Sudan and Uganda then reached an agreement whereby Sudan would allow the UPDF to enter Sudanese territory for the purpose of eliminating the LRA.

These overtures by Sudan to cut support to the LRA and allow the UPDF into southern Sudan to track down LRA rebels have gone unmatched by Uganda. The Ugandan operation in southern Sudan called "Operation Iron Fist" did not locate the LRA in Sudan; they fled to the Imatong Mountains in southern Sudan and then, eluding the UPDF, most of the LRA crossed over into northern Uganda a few months after the operation started, in May-June 2002. Afterwards, their attacks in northern Uganda started up again.

In April 2002, Khartoum and Kampala agreed to renew diplomatic ties at the ambassador level, and Uganda is trying to keep SPLA fighters from taking advantage of Uganda's presence in southern Sudan to attack Sudanese government forces.

    The Democratic Republic of Congo (the DRC)

Uganda has been involved in the DRC's civil wars since helping Laurent Kabila and his Alliance of Democratic Forces for the Liberation of Congo-Zaire (ADFL) overthrow Mobutu Sese Seko in 1997. In late 1998, when Kabila tried to expel from the DRC Rwandan forces that had also helped him seize power, Uganda switched sides, invading the DRC together with Rwandan forces. The Ugandan government has cited security concerns for its involvement in the DRC, fearing attack by Sudan-backed insurgents operating in the DRC's northeast. Uganda's army headquarters in the DRC are in the Bunia region, where it trains the military wing of the RCD-LM.28 The UPDF has trained children, tortured political opponents and illegally detained political leaders.29

Ugandan military activity has gone further than helping the RCD-LM fight the government forces of current DRC President Joseph Kabila. The UPDF reportedly controls the country's northeast, even setting up a separate administrative province, Ituri, for which it has named local leaders. The UPDF has recruited fighters from the area's Hema and Lentu ethnic groups, reportedly siding with the Hema as they fight the Lentu over land issues, a conflict which has killed tens of thousands of people and displaced 200,000. Fighting between the Hema and Lentu and division among RCD-ML leaders have allowed Uganda to continue to exploit natural resources in the DRC. Ugandan military and political officials profit from the extraction and sale of timber, coffee, gold and coltan30 from Ituri.31

On September 7, 2002, the governments of Uganda and Rwanda agreed to withdraw their troops from eastern DRC and to normalize relations. Under the agreement, Uganda was granted five days to withdraw its forces from the cities of Beni and Gbadolite, and one hundred days to withdraw from the city of Bunia. As of early October, Ugandan and Rwandan troop withdrawals proceeded according to schedule but concerns were raised about the vacuum they left behind, causing clashes between rebel groups in the region and tens of thousands of civilians to become internally displaced.32

    Refugee Accounts of Harassment by Security Agents


Leonard N. is a twenty-year-old refugee from Kigali, Rwanda. His parents and brothers, except one who fled to South Africa, were killed during the 1994 genocide. Leonard explained to a Human Rights Watch researcher that his family had been very wealthy, with several cars and a large home. However, a Rwandan military major occupied his home and took his family's cars and other property. Since he was alone in Kigali and very young, Leonard did not challenge the officers. Instead, he continued his education at a boarding school where he had been enrolled prior to the genocide. Eventually, he ran out of money and was encouraged by his teachers to ask the major for rent. Leonard's attempts to recover rent from the major led to several altercations with the military. Eventually, his teachers advised him that his life was at risk and they purchased a bus ticket for him to flee to Uganda. He arrived in Kampala on September 17, 2001, registered at the police, went to InterAid for his interview, and was refused refugee status all within two weeks of his arrival. His story implies collaboration between the Rwandan and Ugandan military. He explained what happened:

After only two weeks of me being here in Kampala, the major learned that I was here. He sent intelligence [agents] here to look for me. I was easy to find because I had to sleep out in the open outside of Old Kampala Police Station. Some people came to ask for me there. Some other Rwandans knew that the people asking for me were army officers. They warned me to leave that area and not sleep there any more. I snuck away very early on the morning of October 24, 2001. Before I left they gathered Ush.1,000 [U.S.$.55] for me so that I could transport myself to [another] neighborhood of Kampala. However, when I got there the same people picked me up off the street. They had vehicles behind them and pushed me into one of the vehicles. I was packed in the vehicle with many soldiers. They kept asking me questions and beat me up in the vehicle. One used barbed wire to beat me over and over on the legs. He cut me very badly on my leg. My teeth were also broken from that beating. [He showed a Human Rights Watch researcher his broken teeth and a scar on his leg]. They drove me to Kololo Army Base, where they have a military intelligence office, for eleven days. On the eleventh day they wrote a letter to the Central Police that I should be deported with immediate effect.

They picked me up in a tinted army vehicle [i.e. with tinted windows] and took me to Central Police, where I was detained for thirty-one days. At Central Police they beat me so hard and I even still have pains in my back from those beatings. During the time they held me they brought some Rwandan Embassy staff to Central Police, and those staff took pictures of me. That happened on about November 18, 2001.

I was so frightened in prison.... they eventually released me on April 12, 2001 but the police took the whole bag of my clothes and my glasses too. I still cannot see properly.

....I cannot go to Rwanda - they will kill me. The authorities here have completely rejected me, including UNHCR. Even the government of Uganda cannot offer me protection because they are the ones who are working with the Rwandans. I have no place to go-I am just like the air blowing around, no place to stay...33

Another Rwandan refugee, André G.,34 was afraid for his safety in Kampala because of his past criticism of the Rwandan government. André had been employed by a government institution in Rwanda and had been a member of the Rwandan Patriotic Front35 (RPF, or FPR in French) since the early 1990s. Because he criticized the human rights record of the RPF in an internal meeting, he was abducted and beaten. At the internal meeting he had said that the RPF is the brain ["cerveau"] of everything that happens in Rwanda, so it is also responsible for some things going wrong, ["Ce qui ne va pas, cela tombe sur la tete du FPR."]. André had suffered many problems in securing adequate refugee protection from other governments before he finally reached Uganda.36 On September 19, 2001, a former colleague from government service called André on the telephone and told him that his situation was precarious. He told him to come back to Rwanda, otherwise he would be returned by force. On September 21, 2001, the same former colleague and another agent of the Rwandan government came to see him. André was very frightened about this and alerted the Special Branch but they said they could not do anything.

After these incidents with his former colleague, André informed InterAid about his security concerns but they said they could not protect him. They told him, "that is the job of the Ugandan police." 37 An official at InterAid said, "it is the government that currently looks after you." 38 But, even after subsequent visits André could not find protection from the police. Two male agents came to his home and asked for him by name on March 26, 2002. He told them his name was not André, and they went away. Then again on March 27, 2002, one of the men came back but André was out. Later that night, at approximately 4:00 a.m., the men came and knocked on the gate of the compound saying they were looking for the Rwandan who lived there. The people in André's house refused to open the door. The next morning he reported the incident at Old Kampala Police Station. The police said, "it is difficult to protect you." 39

Olivier C. is a twenty-one-year-old Rwandan refugee whose father and sister were killed in the 1994 genocide. Some of his surviving family members had since been involved in high profile opposition activities. For very specific reasons, Olivier C. was afraid that his life was in danger in Rwanda and he traveled by bus from Kigali to Kampala. After two weeks of sleeping outside Old Kampala Police Station, Olivier was picked up off the street, detained in Kampala and repeatedly beaten by Rwandan agents over the course of eleven months. This happened after Uganda and Rwanda started supporting different rebel groups in the DRC. The high tensions between the two governments at this time suggest that Ugandan authorities were not complicit and were unaware of what was transpiring with Olivier C. He told a Human Rights Watch researcher what happened:

I arrived in Uganda on April 13, 2000. When I arrived, the employees from the embassy of Rwanda found me near the Old Kampala Police station. They arrested me immediately and kept me from April 2000 until June 2001. They drove me to a big house that had a smaller shed in the back. They immediately put me in that small house and locked me in. The whole compound had a gate around it too and there were always guards there. They forced me to stay there because they had so many questions to ask me and because they wanted to deport me. They wouldn't let me wash, but they did give me food and drink. They also gave me times to go to the toilet and some times to walk in the yard. I slept on the floor with only one blanket on cartons. The area I was in was a place with many houses. The one house I was in back of was just a big house, but I cannot describe the front of it very well because I only saw it one or two times during that whole year.

So many people came to ask questions during all those months about my [family] and about the government in Rwanda. They asked, "where is your [family member involved in political opposition]?" I said he is in the U.S., but they would never believe me, and they would say that he was here in Kampala. They wanted me to show them where [he] was. Every time they didn't like my answers they beat me on the feet to get me to say where my [family member] was-they beat me with a long stick. They also beat me with their hands. When I got sick they would take me to a doctor, but always with a guard.

One day they let me go with a guard to a tap to wash my clothes. When I had my clothes off except for some shorts and was washing them, the guard went to get beer and cigarettes at a shop. When I saw him start to walk into that shop I just dropped the clothes I was washing and ran from there and I left my clothes behind. The guard had a pistol, but he didn't see me run away. I ran all the way to InterAid. I slept for a weekend outside InterAid and then I went to the police on the Monday.40

    The DRC

The RCD has an active presence in Kampala. Several refugees interviewed by Human Rights Watch mentioned spotting agents they were familiar with on the streets of Kampala. One agent in particular, Telexie Rubuye [his real name], an RCD security agent responsible for security in South Kivu province, had been spotted by several refugees and had stopped and questioned one refugee.41

A Congolese refugee, Angeline Y., had worked for a local human rights NGO in Goma. In November 2000, she was arrested when doing research in Masisi about illegal detention cases.42 When she stayed overnight in the area, soldiers followed her and tried to arrest her. But local people protected her and told the soldiers to come back the next day. She then fled to Goma, where she was still pursued. Three days after the first attempt to arrest her, some soldiers were waiting at her home in Goma. Other soldiers went to her sister's home to look for her. Angeline fled for Kampala and arrived there in December 2000. Shortly after Angeline arrived in Kampala, she was told that a Rwandan soldier had come twice to UNHCR to ask for her. His name was Mundeki, one of the RCD soldiers from Masisi who had threatened her.

The fact that the UPDF has been fighting in the DRC has created complicated security problems for some Congolese. Kibunda H. came to Kampala in 1999. Prior to his flight, Kibunda's wife had been abducted by a group of UPDF officers, a practice that was common in the war in the DRC.43 On September 19, 2000 the UPDF officers came to Kampala with the women. An article later appearing in the Ugandan press explained that the women were brought to Kampala with their UPDF "husbands" who had been taking rest and recreation in Katakwi in eastern Uganda.44 Purely by chance, Kibunda H. saw his wife one day on the street. The two were reunited and she went home with him that day.

Since that time, the man who brought my wife here is after me. He came to my house to kill me once. I hid myself and the man spoke with my friends. Another time a man came to my house to ask questions about me but again I just hid myself and my wife-I never came out. At UNHCR they understand my problem. But I can only leave my house at night.... The security problem for me is eternal-it is ongoing. The man who took my wife accused me of being with the Mai-Mai45 at the police in March 2001. Because of this I never can go to the police for help with my security problems.46

Refugees from the territories of the DRC controlled by Uganda until October 2002 are under the control of the same authorities responsible for their original persecution. Human rights activists and other prominent community leaders are frequently followed by security services of the RCD-Goma, and sometimes threatened. The situation is so difficult for some refugees that they are terrified to leave their shelters. For example, Celestin R. was a human rights activist in Congo and fled after having several run-ins with security officers there. He fled to Uganda in early January 2001, and very soon afterwards gave an interview on French radio regarding the use of child soldiers in Congo. After the interview he received threatening phone calls at his home. Subsequently, RCD agents inquired about him at one of the church shelters for refugees. On the night before Human Rights Watch's interview with Celestin, he had detected people outside his shelter and heard knocking at the door. He and others living with him made a great deal of noise to scare the prowlers away. He said he is so afraid of exposing himself to risk that he almost never leaves his home (_Je pr_fère rester a la maison que de m_exposer").47

Ugandan Military and Police Harassment

Given Uganda's role in the region, Ugandan authorities occasionally work in tandem with security agents to harass refugees. Or, in the case of Congolese suspected of opposition to the occupation of eastern DRC by Ugandan forces, the refugees may have continued to be targeted by the UPDF inside Uganda. In other cases, refugees are accused of being responsible (by virtue of being Congolese) for the deaths of Ugandan soldiers in the DRC.

For example, on March 17, 2002 a male local government leader (who was the chairman for the local district designated as "LC1") came to the home of Congolese human rights activist and refugee Angeline Y. (introduced previously) and asked for her papers, which she showed him. He accused her landlady, an elderly Ugandan woman, of housing refugees. He came back with another man who was armed, and asked the landlady to chase Angeline away. On March 19, 2002 the LC1 chairman again came to her house with six other men, his advisors. They said, "Ugandans die in your country."48 They threatened to beat Angeline and asked for her papers again. They said, "She could kill someone-you cannot know." 49 A Human Rights Watch researcher later learned that Angeline escaped another attack on July 23, 2002.50

    The Ugandan Military

The involvement of the Ugandan military in the war in the DRC has meant that once they are back in Uganda, soldiers have attempted to intimidate individual Congolese they assumed to be in opposition to their military presence (up to late September 2002) in the DRC. As a result, the Ugandan military has been implicated in several security incidents51 with Congolese refugees.

On June 9, 2002, Celestin R. (introduced previously) and Anatole B.,52 both from the DRC, were arrested by Ugandan army soldiers as they were walking down the street in Makindye, a neighborhood of Kampala. Celestin was on his way to church and Anatole was on his way home after visiting Celestin. When they passed the nearby military camp in Makindye, they were called in by several soldiers and ordered to sit in a small room, and verbally threatened. The soldiers accused the refugees of political activities, and of being agents who had "plans to destabilize Uganda."

The refugees were suspected of being RCD spies, an accusation that lacks any basis. The soldiers threatened to take the refugees to another place where they would force them to reveal their "real identities." They also confiscated Celestin's mobile phone, and as he tried to resist this, they threw him against a wall. After some disagreement among themselves, the soldiers released the refugees but kept their UNHCR protection letters, OPM protection letters, and other important documents such as an address book.

    The Ugandan Police

The Ugandan police have also been accused of committing violence against refugees. At times refugees are not specifically targeted, and violence suffered in custody is no different to that experienced by Ugandan nationals. However, sometimes the police violence appears to be linked to government suspicions about certain nationalities of refugees. Asylum seekers and refugees may wind up in custody after being individually arrested, but most often they are detained after being caught up in one of Uganda's immigration "swoops" (a word commonly used in Uganda).

Uganda regularly uses swoops as a method of identifying, detaining and deporting illegal immigrants. In March 2002, when the Ugandan government arrested and detained illegal immigrants, a senior immigration officer said that they would be locked up in police cells pending disposal of their cases, which normally end in imprisonment, fines, and deportation.53 In 1998 and 2000 the government engaged in similar actions to collect and deport illegal immigrants.54 It is not clear whether any of the detainees in these operations were asylum seekers or recognized refugees, or whether the Ugandan government, in deporting any of the immigrants, was guilty of refoulement.

In a recent swoop conducted in August 2001, the Ugandan police were accused of brutality and sexual violence against a group of detainees, some of whom were asylum seekers and refugees. Béatrice K.55 is a Rwandan refugee who fled from Kigali with her six children in 2000, and was part of a group of several Rwandan refugees who were arrested during the August 2001 swoop. In an interview with a Human Rights Watch researcher, she estimated that she was one of eighteen people arrested and detained at Kololo military base. She told Human Rights Watch that the Ugandan police came there with several vehicles. They beat her, and kicked her repeatedly in her middle torso, harming her bladder. After the beatings she had blood in her urine for three days. She also received kicks on her legs and feet and showed a Human Rights Watch researcher scars from these beatings.

Béatrice told a Human Rights Watch researcher that she and her fellow detainees were "thrown like manioc56 sacks into the car."57 They were brought to Kiira Road police station. Contemporary press reports confirm that seventeen "asylum seekers" were arrested and in police custody at Kiira Road at this time.58 Béatrice was detained at that station from August 21 to 31, 2001. Béatrice told a Human Rights Watch researcher she was also beaten at the Kiira police station with planks ["planches"] of wood with nails. Children, women, and men were held together. Asked whether the men assaulted the women, she told a Human Rights Watch researcher "The policemen harassed us every day. A woman was taken and then raped." 59

Paul M.60 is a Burundian refugee who arrived in Kampala on March 6, 2001. He is from Muyinga, a northern province in Burundi. He was a brick maker but he was recruited by force into the army. He deserted after one month and fled Burundi for Uganda. On November 19, 2001, he was stopped at around 9:00 p.m. by Ugandans who asked for his name and said he must be Rwandan.61 They searched him and beat him badly. He screamed during the beatings, and eventually he fell on the ground. The Ugandans took him to Old Kampala police station. Two policemen joined the group detaining him and they beat him as well. They kicked him with their boots and hit him with the handle of a gun.

Paul told a Human Rights Watch researcher that he believes that he was arrested and beaten because the Ugandans mistook him for a Rwandan. Paul was then put into a lockup and they took all his papers from him, including his UNHCR documents. He was released shortly afterwards. Paul sought help from the government-based Ugandan Human Rights Commission (UGHR), which agreed to take up his case. He was also referred by the UGHR to the African Centre for Torture Victims where he was treated and a complaint for the police was prepared. As of April 4, 2002 no action had been taken on his complaint and the UGHR sent a reminder to the police asking about his case.


While it is undoubtedly a major challenge for Uganda's police and security agencies to control the activities of country of origin agents in Kampala and for the government to find the necessary resources for the task, Uganda's involvement in conflicts in the region contributes to the problem. Most worrying is the fact that in some cases the government of Uganda is not even interested in stopping security agents-or even its own military and police-from trailing and harassing refugees. This is particularly true for Congolese refugees from the areas of the DRC that were until October 2002 under UPDF control who find themselves when they reach Uganda under the authority of the same power that had persecuted them at home.

Responsibility for Protection Problems

Asylum seekers, refugees recognized under the Refugee Convention, and prima facie refugees must be guaranteed certain basic human rights. The rights most relevant to the protection problems documented by Human Rights Watch in Uganda include: the right to freedom of speech, the right not to be tortured, the right to liberty and not to be arbitrarily detained, the right to security of person, and the right to freedom of movement.62

Article 19(3) of the ICCPR, to which Uganda is a party, provides aliens with the right to freely express opinions; and Article 21 provides for the right of peaceful assembly. The Human Rights Committee, which is charged with the responsibility to interpret and monitor the ICCPR, has explicitly stated that "[aliens] have the right to hold opinions and to express them. Aliens receive the benefit of the right of peaceful assembly and of freedom of association."63 While Uganda and UNHCR are allowed to limit these rights of refugees when public order is under threat, or when a particular demonstration is likely to lead to violence, it is not apparent that the August 21, 2001 demonstration outside the offices of InterAid threatened public order or was likely to lead to violence.

The activities of country of origin security agents are also the concern of the government of Uganda. Under international law, Uganda cannot turn a blind eye to the activities of such agents.64 The government of Uganda is also responsible when its own police or military agents conspire to commit, encourage or are significantly involved in human rights abuses themselves.65 In addition, Uganda must allow refugees who have had their rights abused the same access as nationals to the police or to seek redress in the courts.66 Uganda has begun to sensitize some police officers, particularly those working in Old Kampala, about refugee protection. However, as discussed more fully above, Uganda has strategic interests in the countries of origin of refugees that sometimes prevent the police and security personnel from responding adequately or appropriately to such incidents. At other times, the police themselves are to blame, leaving refugees without a safe place to turn to.

Except for high-profile refugees, who are usually referred to UNHCR for resettlement,67 the Ugandan government is reluctant to accept full responsibility for providing protection to refugees at risk in Kampala. Instead it chooses to blame UNHCR for not doing enough to protect high-risk security cases. The Office of the Prime Minister told a Human Rights Watch researcher, "When a refugee has serious security problems, we have to remind UNHCR that their core mandate is to protect refugees. We are unable to extend physical protection to all of them, and sometimes we refer them for resettlement. But, ultimately we rely on UNHCR to accomplish this. Normally, UNHCR doesn't listen to our referrals on security or medical grounds."68 Another official in OPM put it this way, "A major question I would like to ask is: `why doesn't UNHCR take medium term measures to take care of refugees with security problems?'"69

UNHCR is a convenient scapegoat when the presence of certain refugees compromises Uganda's military or political objectives in the region. Uganda cannot pick and choose which refugees it wants to protect - by doing so the government is failing to fulfill its obligations under the Refugee Convention and the OAU Refugee Convention, and is putting refugees' lives at risk.

At the same time, UNHCR asserts that the Ugandan government is not doing enough to protect refugees. In an interview with a Human Rights Watch researcher, UNHCR in Uganda noted that, "The security of refugees is the responsibility of governments, and the government of Uganda is equipped to deal with the security of refugees."70 A UNHCR official in Uganda insisted that, "we need to make the government accountable for [the security of refugees].... they are overlooking the role of the police to protect [the refugees]."71 An example of how the security concerns of refugees are shuttled between the government of Uganda and UNHCR is presented in Annex D, below.

While the government does need to do more to guarantee the protection of refugees whose lives are in danger in Uganda, Human Rights Watch also found that UNHCR is failing in some of its protection functions. UNHCR is not actively tracking or responding to the individual incidents of insecurity experienced by refugees on a daily basis and documented in this report. Refugees are unable to access the office to report on beatings or other harassment. Even local human rights groups experience problems accessing UNHCR or convincing UNHCR to intervene with the Ugandan government on behalf of refugees. The agency lacks sufficient staff to be able to visit refugees in custody or intervene with authorities in cases that are not high profile.

In addition, Human Rights Watch interviewed several women refugees and their children who were vulnerable to abuse because UNHCR had not identified them as at-risk individuals and provided them with safe housing when they were interviewed at InterAid's offices.

The failure to identify any of these at-risk groups could be improved if InterAid were better resourced to provide adequate screening and service delivery functions. UNHCR could also periodically deploy staff out to the areas where refugees live to learn about at-risk refugees and monitor their situation.

Finally, the agency could take a more interventionist role in situations (as it has with high-profile cases) where refugees are detained by the government of Uganda, or are subject to abuse at the hands of security agents. One obvious function the agency could play would be to secure refugees' early release from detention and refer more of these cases for resettlement.

249 The term "high profile" is used in this report to refer to cases of particularly well-known refugees and/or to cases that have received public attention.

250 Human Rights Watch interview with InterAid, Kampala, Uganda, April 8, 2002.

251 Acknowledging that sleeping outside is unsafe for refugees, one police officer told Human Rights Watch, "of course we would allow them to be locked inside the cells if they want for their protection." Human Rights Watch had the opportunity to examine the corridor in front of the cells, which was easily visible through a set of bars that in turn were open to an inner courtyard. Given the stench and crowding of prisoners even in that corridor, it is difficult to imagine any asylum seeker agreeing to be locked in with the criminal prisoners-no matter how frightened he or she was about sleeping outside. Human Rights Watch interview with police officer, Old Kampala Police Station, Uganda, April 9, 2002.

252 Human Rights Watch interview with InterAid, Kampala, Uganda, April 8, 2002.

253 Human Rights Watch interview with NGO, Kampala, Uganda, April 8, 2002.

254 Human Rights Watch interview with refugee, Kampala, Uganda, April 12, 2002.

255 Human Rights Watch interview with refugee, Kampala, Uganda, April 11, 2002.

0 Human Rights Watch interview with refugee, Kampala, Uganda, April 14, 2002.

1 See ICCPR, Articles 19 and 21.

2 See ICCPR, Article 19, para. 3(b).

3 See ICCPR, Article 21.

4 Human Rights Watch interview with refugee, Kampala, Uganda, April 9, 2002.

5 The intention of Congolese refugees in Kampala to hold a peaceful demonstration was reported in one of Uganda's daily newspapers. See "Congolese Refugees Plan Street Demo," The Monitor, August 21, 2001. More recently, on May 14, 2002, Ugandan police arrested four Congolese protesters and confiscated their placards as they were protesting outside the InterAid offices in Old Kampala against the poor living conditions in refugee camps. See "Refugees Protest Poor Conditions," New Vision, May 14, 2002.

6 Human Rights Watch interview with refugee, Kampala, Uganda, April 9, 2002.

7 Human Rights Watch interview with refugee, Kampala, Uganda, April 11, 2002.

8 Human Rights Watch interview with UNHCR Uganda Representative (speaking at joint UNHCR/HRW Press Conference), Kampala, Uganda, April 16, 2002.

9 See "UNHCR Warns Refugees," Monitor, (Kampala, Uganda) August 23, 2001.

10 See note 87 above, discussing the use of the term "security agent" and "country of origin agent" in this report.

11 Human Rights Watch interview with refugee, Kampala, Uganda, April 11, 2002.

12 Human Rights Watch interview with government official, Kampala, Uganda, April 8, 2002.

13 Human Rights Watch interview with InterAid, Kampala, Uganda, April 8, 2002.

14 Human Rights Watch interview with NGO, Kampala, Uganda, April 11, 2002.

15 Yoweri Museveni is the president of Uganda.

16 See note 244, above, for a short description of the RCD. See also "Uganda in Eastern DRC: Fueling Political and Ethnic Strife," Human Rights Watch, March 2001,

17 See Inter Press Service, "Deep-seated Animosity between Rwanda and Uganda," November 15, 2001.

18 Xinhua News Agency, "Uganda Confirms Deployment of Troops near Rwanda," September 8, 2001.

19 See Africa News Service, "Interahamwe Reported Present in Kampala," May 22, 2002.

20 See Agence France-Presse, "Museveni Hits out at Sudan's Support of LRA," May 24, 1998

21 Uganda assisted in the SPLA capture of the towns of Yei, Yirol, Rumbek, Tonj and others in Western Equatoria and Bahr El Ghazal in 1997. See "Global Trade, Local Impact: Arms Transfers to all Sides in the Civil War in Sudan," Human Rights Watch/Africa, vol. 10, No. 4 (A), August 1998, p. 46.

22 See BBC Monitoring Service: Middle East, "Sudanese Rebel Leader Garang Welcomes Uganda-Sudan Accord," December 14, 1999; BBC Monitoring Service: Africa, "Parliament Asks Government to Stop Supporting Sudanese Rebels," December 11, 2000.

23 See Agence France-Presse, "Uganda, Sudan Make Fresh Pledges Towards Normalizing Relations," September 27, 2000.

24 See Human Rights Watch/Africa, The Scars of Death Children Abducted by the Lord's Resistance Army in Uganda, September 1997.

25 See "Sudan in Strife: a Catalyst for Conflict," Jane's Intelligence Review, December 1, 1999

26 See BBC Monitoring Service: Africa, "Parliament Asks Government to Stop Supporting Sudanese Rebels," December 11, 2000; Agence France-Presse, "Sudan's Beshir says Khartoum No Longer Backs Ugandan Rebels," August 20, 2001.

27 See e.g. Agence France Presse, "Sudanese, Ugandan Presidents Agree to Stop Backing Rebels," December 8, 1999.

28 "Letter to Museveni," Human Rights Watch, August 23, 2000,

29 See Human Rights Watch/Africa, Uganda in Eastern DRC: Fueling Political and Ethnic Strife, Vol. 13, No. 2(A), March 2001.

30 "Coltan" is the abbreviation for "columbite-tantalite," a heat-resistant metallic ore that can hold a high electrical charge. It is used in the manufacture of circuit boards for small electronics such as laptops, cell phones and pagers. See "What is Coltan?" ABC News on line, available at (last visited July 26, 2002).

31 See Human Rights Watch/Africa, Uganda in Eastern DRC: Fueling Political and Ethnic Strife, Vol. 13, No. 2(A), March 2001.

32 See e.g. "Kabila and Museveni Sign Troop Withdrawal Protocol," IRIN News, September 9, 2002; "Ugandan Troop Pullout Near Completion," IRIN News, September 25, 2002; "DRC: Shabunda Reported Calm Following Mayi-Mayi Takeover," IRIN News, October 4, 2002.

33 Human Rights Watch interview with refugee, Kampala, Uganda, April 11, 2002.

34 Human Rights Watch interview with refugee, Kampala, Uganda, April 11, 2002.

35 The Rwandan Patriotic Front defeated the civilian and military authorities responsible for the 1994 genocide in Rwanda. In their drive for victory and to end the genocide, the RPF killed thousands, including noncombatants as well as government troops and members of militia. Today, the Rwandan Patriotic Front is the dominant party in the government. See Human Rights Watch/Africa, Leave None to Tell the Story, March 1999; "No Contest in Rwandan Elections," Human Rights Watch Press Release, March 9, 2001.

36 In order to protect his identity, Human Rights Watch has kept confidential the details of André's experience abroad (in countries outside of Africa), which involved serious violations of his rights as a refugee.

37 Human Rights Watch interview with refugee, Kampala, Uganda, April 11, 2002.

38 Human Rights Watch interview with refugee, Kampala, Uganda, April 11, 2002.

39 Human Rights Watch interview with refugee, Kampala, Uganda, April 11, 2002.

40 Human Rights Watch interview with refugee, Kampala, Uganda, April 15, 2002.

41 Human Rights Watch interview with refugee, Kampala, Uganda, April 12, 2002.

42 Angeline had documented the use of open pit prisons where detainees were held in holes dug into the earth, in the town of Mweso in Masisi province. One of the open pit prisons was right next to a military base. She spoke to the father of a detainee who died in such a prison and to a friendly Hutu soldier who gave her names of people detained there. Human Rights watch interview with refugee, Kampala, Uganda, April 10, 2002.

43 The U.S. State Department reported that in 2000, RPA, Ugandan troops, and RCD rebels all abducted many young women from the villages that they raided, mainly in the Kivu Provinces. See U.S. Department of State, Country Reports on Human Rights Practices - Rwanda 2000, February 23, 2001 (available at

44 See "UPDF Congo Wives Want Refugee Status," Monitor, (Kampala, Uganda) August 16, 2001.

45 See note 112, above, for a short definition of the Mai-Mai.

46 Human Rights Watch interview with refugee, Kampala, Uganda, April 8, 2002.

47 Human Rights Watch interview with refugee, Kampala, Uganda, April 10, 2002.

48 Human Rights Watch interview with refugee, Kampala, Uganda, April 10, 2002.

49 Human Rights Watch interview with refugee, Kampala, Uganda, April 10, 2002.

50 Human Rights Watch telephone interview with colleagues of Angeline, London, U.K., July 25, 2002, and correspondence received from Angeline detailing the attack on August 8, 2002.

51 Another case of military harassment involved Kamara S., a deacon in the Baptist Church in Kisangani who had worked for a human rights organization in that city. His human rights work had put his life and safety under threat, so he fled to Uganda. He told Human Rights Watch that on February 1, 2001, four Ugandan soldiers arrested him in Kampala and took him to a private house. They asked for his papers. They told him that they were from security. He showed them all his papers and also the membership card of his association. There was a witness to his arrest, and so a Ugandan priest was alerted and came to negotiate his liberation. He was released at around 2:00 a.m. the next day. Human Rights Watch interview with refugee, Kampala, Uganda, April 10, 2002.

52 Human Rights Watch correspondence and telephone conversations with Celestin R. and Anatole B., June 10-11, 2002.

53 See Africa News Service, "City Swoop Nets Illegal Immigrants," March 21, 2002.

54 See BBC Monitoring Service: Africa, "Immigration Department Swoop Nets Over 70 Illegal Immigrants," December 14, 2000; Agence France-Presse, "Ugandan Forces Make Kampala Arrests in Anti-Rebel Swoop," September 28, 1998.

55 Prior to coming to Uganda, Béatrice was detained in Rwanda in April 1996 and in October 1999 because her husband was a member of the FAR (former Rwandan army) and has disappeared, apparently at the hands of the authorities-as has been the case with several other ex-FAR members from Rwanda.

56 Manioc, otherwise known as cassava, is a carbohydrate-rich tuber, the pulp of which is removed, washed and roasted, creating a coarse meal or flour that is often stored in sacks.

57 Human Rights Watch interview with refugee, Kampala, Uganda, April 11, 2002.

58 See "Police Holds Seventeen Asylum Seekers," Monitor, (Kampala, Uganda) August 27, 2001.

59 Human Rights Watch interview with refugee, Kampala, Uganda, April 11, 2002.

60 Human Rights Watch interview with refugee, Kampala, Uganda, April 11, 2002.

61 In November 2001, the Rwandan government accused Uganda of arbitrarily arresting about 100 Rwandans and Ugandans of Rwandan origin. The statement released by the Rwandan embassy in Kampala denounced "arbitrary arrests, detention in alarming conditions and in some cases torture of Rwandans living in Uganda." See "Kigali Condemns Arbitrary Arrest in Uganda," Monitor, (Kampala, Uganda) November 20, 2001. This statement was released at a time when relations between Uganda and Rwanda were at a low point, with each government accusing the other of supporting, training and arming dissidents planning to launch coups d'etat. See also text accompanying notes 271-275 above, describing the tensions between Uganda and Rwanda at this time

62 See ICCPR Articles 7, 9, and 12, respectively. See also "Personal Security of Refugees," ExCom Conclusion No. 72, 1993.

63 U.N. Human Rights Committee, "The Rights of Aliens under the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights," General Comment No. 15, 1986, para. 7.

64 The requirement to "ensure" human rights, set forth in Article 2 of the ICCPR, means that governments cannot turn a blind eye to human rights abuses committed in their territory by other actors. See, e.g. Human Rights Committee, General Comment No. 2(13) and 3(13), UN Doc. A/36/40 (1981).

65 For example, CAT applies to torture inflicted by or with the acquiescence of "a public official or other person acting in an official capacity." CAT, Article 1(1) December 10, 1984.

66 Refugees recognized under the Refugee Convention or the OAU Convention enjoy the same rights as nationals in every respect with the exception of political participation. These rights include: equality before the courts, protection against discrimination, protection against arbitrary expulsion, the right to a fair trial, the rights to freedom of expression, association and peaceful assembly. Of course, these refugees must also receive the most fundamental protection they are entitled to as refugees - the right not to be returned to countries where their lives or freedom may be in danger (called non-refoulement).

67 A Ugandan government official told a Human Rights Watch researcher that "high-profile asylum seekers are dealt with expeditiously." Human Rights Watch interview with Ugandan government official, Kampala, Uganda, April 8, 2002.

68 Human Rights Watch interview with Ugandan government official, Kampala, Uganda, April 8, 2002.

69 Human Rights Watch interview with Ugandan government official, Kampala, Uganda, April 13, 2002.

70 Human Rights Watch interview with UNHCR official, Kampala, Uganda, April 8, 2002.

71 Human Rights Watch interview with UNHCR official, Kampala, Uganda, April 8, 2002.

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