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Statements Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights

High Commissioner concerned over escalating violence against civilians in northeastern Uganda

19 April 2007


19 April 2007

United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights Louise Arbour today reiterated her call to the Government of Uganda to review its forced disarmament strategy in Karamoja, northeastern Uganda, where violence and human rights violations have continued to escalate since her last report in November 2006.

During the period 16 November 2006 to 31 March 2007, the indiscriminate and excessive use of force of the Ugandan Peoples’ Defence Forces (UPDF) resulted in the killing of at least 69 civilians, including women and children, 10 cases of torture, inhuman and degrading treatment or punishment and the killing of over 400 cattle and numbers of traditional homesteads (manyattas) destroyed in Karamoja.
The High Commissioner also expressed her serious concern that armed Karimojong criminal activities continued to perpetuate a climate of fear and insecurity in Karamoja, reportedly killing at least 7 soldiers, 8 civilians and over 288 cattle during the same period in road ambushes and cattle raids.

The High Commissioner, in a report released today, deplored the failure of the Government of Uganda to implement the recommendations of her report of 20 November 2006, and expressed serious concerns about the persistence of allegations of human rights violations and criminal acts in the Karamoja region since the May 2006 forced disarmament exercise initiated by the Government of Uganda.

"I call on the Government of Uganda to respect its obligations to protect the human rights of all individuals under its jurisdiction at all times and cease the use of indiscriminate and excessive use of force against men, women and children, and take all necessary measures, including reviewing the ongoing disarmament process, to prevent any further human rights violations in Karamoja ", Ms. Arbour said.

The High Commissioner further emphasized that the military response to the violence and crimes committed by armed Karimojong elements should not be the first nor only line of response. Rather, the Government should put measures in place to allow for the legal arrest, detention, prosecution and punishment of those armed Karimojong that commit crimes through the civilian administration of justice system. Ms. Arbour concluded that any disarmament process must be accompanied by concerted and sustainable development initiatives in order to stabilize the situation in Karamoja.