Ugandan police use torture, Human Rights Watch reports

Image caption The report said officers from the unit carried a variety of guns

A special unit of the Uganda police has carried out torture, extortion and extrajudicial killings, according to a report by Human Rights Watch.

Officers from the Rapid Response Unit regularly beat people with objects including batons, glass bottles, and metal pipes, the report said.

It said in some cases they inserted pins under detainees' fingernails.

A Ugandan police spokeswoman said there had been cases of torture, but their number had been reduced.

The 59-page report was based on testimony from more than 100 interviews with former detainees, their families, and current and former members of the police unit, among others.

'Unmarked cars'

It documents six alleged extrajudicial killings in 2010. Two people had died from beatings during interrogations, while four others were shot dead during arrest, Human Rights Watch said.

The Rapid Response Unit makes arrests for a broad range of alleged crimes, including petty offences and terrorism.

"The unit's personnel typically operate in unmarked cars, wear civilian clothing with no identifying insignia, and carry a variety of guns, from pistols to larger assault rifles," the report says.

It noted that the Rapid Response Unit had appointed a new director last year, who set up a toll-free line and a complaints desk.

Ugandan police spokeswoman Judith Nabakooba told AFP news agency: "When cases are brought to our attention they are investigated and action is taken."

President Yoweri Museveni formed the unit in 2002. It was originally called Operation Wembley, before its name was changed to Violent Crime Crack Unit and then the Rapid Response Unit.

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