Ugandan secret police unit accused of torture

An international rights group says a secretive Ugandan police unit frequently operates outside the law, tortures people and in some cases kills suspects. Police deny the report, saying it is exaggerated.

Human Rights Watch said in the report yesterday that Uganda's Rapid Response Unit has had a history of violent and unlawful operations since it was formed under a different name in 2002 by President Yoweri Museveni.

The report recommends that Uganda's police issue orders to end the illegal detention and torture of suspects and to end impunity for human rights violations by members of the Rapid Response Unit.

Daniel Bekele, Human Rights Watch Africa director, said: "The authorities and the donors who fund the police need to get serious about holding abusive officers of this unit accountable."

The head of the Rapid Response Unit, Joel Aguma, denied that his force operated outside the law. "No, no, no," he said. "Whatever we do is within the laws of Uganda."

The report's author talked to 77 Rapid Response Unit detainees, 60 of whom said they had been severely beaten during their detention.

"Detainees were beaten on the joints with batons while handcuffed in stress positions with their hands under their legs," Human Rights Watch said.