Truth Commission: Uganda 74
Truth Commissions Digital Collection
Truth Commission: Commission of Inquiry into the Disappearances of People in Uganda since 25 January, 1971
Dates of Operation: 1974 (6 months)
Background: In 1971, a junior army officer named Idi Amin Dada ousted the authoritarian president Milton Obote from power. While Amin was initially welcomed enthusiastically, he quickly dissolved parliament and altered the constitution granting himself absolute power. Subsequently, Ugandan state forces carried out an organized campaign of repression that included killings and disappearances.
Strong public pressure mounted for an inquiry to be conducted into disappearances occurring during the early years of the Amin government. President Amin established the Commission of Inquiry into the Disappearances of People in Uganda in June 1974. However, it did little to affect the continued brutality of his eight-year rule.
Charter: Commission of Inquiry Act 1914 (87KB-PDF), June 30, 1974, in presidential legal notice no. 2. It can also be found in Appendix 8 contained in section 5 of the report (pages 115-118 of the PDF).
Mandate: The Commission of Inquiry into the Disappearances of People in Uganda was to investigate and report on disappearances in the first years of the Amin government from January 25, 1971 until 1974.
Commissioners and Structure: The commission was comprised of four members, all men. It was chaired by an expatriate Pakistani judge, and included two Ugandan police superintendents and a Ugandan army officer.
Report: Although most hearings were public, a report was never published. A confidential copy was handed over to Idi Amin.
- Part I: Introduction (923KB-PDF)
- Part II: Summary of Evidence – Civilian (3847KB-PDF)
- Part III: Summary of Evidence – Army Soldiers (16002KB-PDF)
- Part IV: Comment Synopsis (2796KB-PDF)
- Part V: Closing Appendices (4979KB-PDF)
- 308 cases of disappearance were presented to the commission.
- The commission concluded that the Public Security Unit and the National Investigation Bureau, both of which had been set up by President Amin, bore the main responsibility for the disappearances.
- The commission recommended reforming the police and the armed forces. It suggested that law enforcement officials be trained in human rights standards.
- The four commissioners were targeted by the state in reprisal for their work.
Special Notes: The commission is known as the first truth commission.
Carver, Richard. "Called to Account: How African Governments Investigate Human Rights Violations." African Affairs 89, no. 356 (July 1, 1990): 391-415.
Center for the Study of Violence and Reconciliation. "Justice in Perspective - Truth and Justice Commission, Africa - Uganda." Available at http://www.justiceinperspective.org.za/index.php?option=com_content&task=view&id=37&Itemid=19 (accessed June 25, 2008).
Hayner, Priscilla B. "Fifteen Truth Commissions-1974 to 1994: A Comparative Study." Human Rights Quarterly 16, no. 4 (1994): 597-655.
Hayner, Priscilla B. Unspeakable Truths: Facing the Challenge of Truth Commissions. New York: Routledge, 2002.
Peterson, Trudy Huskamp. Final Acts: A Guide to Preserving the Records of Truth Commissions. Washington, D.C.; Baltimore: Woodrow Wilson Center Press; Johns Hopkins University Press, 2005. Available at http://www.wilsoncenter.org/book/final-acts-guide-to-preserving-the-records-truth-commissions (accessed October 26, 2008).
TRIAL (Track Impunity Always). "Truth Commission in Uganda." Available at http://www.trial-ch.org/en/truth-commissions/uganda.html (accessed June 11, 2009).