In a December 8 statement, the US says since 2005 when Byabashaija was appointed as prisons boss, members of the Uganda Prisons Service have engaged in torture. This is in addition to other serious human rights abuses against prisoners held within UPS facilities.
“Prisoners have reported being tortured and beaten by Uganda Prisons Service staff and by fellow prisoners at the direction of UPS staff. Members of vulnerable groups, including government critics and members of Uganda’s LGBTQI+ community, have been beaten and held without access to legal counsel. For example, in a 2020 case, the UPS denied a group of LGBTQI+ persons access to their lawyers. Members of the group reportedly endured physical abuse, including a forced anal examination and scalding,” the statement reads in part.
Byabashaija is designated for being a foreign person who is or has been a leader or official of an entity. This includes any government entity, that has engaged in, or whose members have engaged in, serious human rights abuse relating to the leader’s or official’s tenure pursuant to E.O. 13818. Johnson Byabashaija was sanctioned alongside 19 other people for their connection to human rights abuse in nine countries. Two more people were sanctioned under the Department of State’s counter terrorism authority.
The development comes days after the Department of State announced a visa restriction policy on Ugandans. This is particularly on government officials believed to be behind the human rights violations.
According to the December 4, 2023 press statement issued by the US Secretary of State, Mr Anthony Blinken, the sanctions is an expansion of the 2021 similar restrictions.
This is targeting those undermining the democratic process in Uganda. Mr Blinken implored the Ugandan government to improve its record. It should also hold accountable those responsible for flawed electoral processes, violence, and intimidation.
Among others, Mr Blinken revealed that environmental activists, human rights defenders, journalists. Others are LGBTQI+ persons, and civil society organizers.
These groups have continued to enjoy a shrinking democratic arena. This is especially under the threats and repressions by some Ugandan officials. The immediate family members of persons affected by the travel restrictions may also be subject to these visa exclusions.
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