The U.S. Office of Foreign Assets Control (OFAC) has imposed sanctions on Johnson Byabashaija, the Commissioner General of the Uganda Prisons Service, along with 20 others connected to human rights abuses in nine countries.
Byabashaija, who has held the position since 2005, is accused of overseeing gross human rights violations, particularly targeting government critics and marginalized groups.
The OFAC alleges that, during the lengthy period under review, members of the Uganda Prisons Service engaged in severe human rights abuses, including torture, against prisoners held within the facilities.
The sanctioned individuals are believed to be responsible for orchestrating or participating in these actions.
In a statement released by the OFAC, it asserts, “During that period, members of the UPS have engaged in torture and other serious human rights abuse against prisoners held within UPS facilities. Prisoners have reported being tortured and beaten by UPS staff and by fellow prisoners at the direction of UPS staff.”
The statement goes on to highlight specific cases, including the denial of access to legal counsel for members of vulnerable groups, such as government critics and Uganda’s LGBTQI+ community.
One notable incident mentioned in the statement occurred in 2020 when the UPS allegedly denied a group of LGBTQI+ individuals access to their lawyers.
As a result, the group reportedly endured physical abuse, including forced anal examinations and scalding. This revelation underscores the severe conditions faced by marginalized communities within the prison system.
The Uganda Prisons Service (UPS) is yet to respond to the sanctions imposed by the OFAC.