By Enyichukwu Enemanna
US Department of the Treasury has imposed sanctions on the Commissioner General of the Uganda Prisons Service (UPS), Johnson Byabashaija, banning him from coming into the US over alleged torture of members of the LGBTQ community.
Also sanctioned are 19 other individuals from 9 countries over alleged human right abuses.
In addition to Uganda, other countries are the Central African Republic (CAR) the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), Haiti, Iran, Liberia, the People’s Republic of China and South Sudan.
This comes ahead of the world’s commemoration of the December 10, 75th anniversary of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (UDHR).
Byabashaija has been the Commissioner General of UPS since 2005.
In a statement, the US Treasury Department said, “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. 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 and members of the group reportedly endured physical abuse, including a forced anal examination and scalding.”
The statement added, “Byabashaija is being designated for being a foreign person who is or has been a leader or official of an entity, including 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.”
On what the implications of the sanction are, the statement further says, “As a result of today’s actions, all property and interests in property of the designated persons described above that are in the United States or in the possession or control of U.S. persons are blocked and must be reported to OFAC.
“In addition, any entities that are owned, directly or indirectly, individually or in the aggregate, 50 per cent or more by one or more blocked persons are also blocked. Unless authorised by a general or specific license issued by OFAC, or exempt, OFAC’s regulations generally prohibit all transactions by U.S. persons or within (or transiting) the United States that involve any property or interests in property of designated or otherwise blocked persons.”
“In addition, financial institutions and other persons that engage in certain transactions or activities with the sanctioned entities and individuals may expose themselves to sanctions or be subject to an enforcement action. The prohibitions include the making of any contribution or provision of funds, goods, or services by, to, or for the benefit of any designated person, or the receipt of any contribution or provision of funds, goods, or services from any such person,” the statement says.
The Department of the Treasury said that while the Uganda Prisons Service had attempted to implement some human rights-related measures, these measures fell short.
“Should Byabashaija implement effective measures to eliminate torture and impunity, increase independent human rights monitoring, ban forced anal examinations and other forms of abuse used to target LGBTQI+ persons and others, ensure protections for vulnerable persons and groups, and improve overall prison conditions, the Department of the Treasury will consider those to be changes of behaviour that would potentially result in his removal from the SDN List,” the statement added.
In the list of those sanctioned include, Jefferson Koijee, the mayor of Liberia’s capital, Monrovia. The US accuses him of controlling paramilitary-style organisations associated with his CDC party.
Also placed on the sanctions list are three militia leaders in the Democratic Republic of Congo: William Yakutumba of the Mai-Mai and