Brutal stuff here:
A US couple is facing the death penalty in Uganda after they were hit with an aggravated child trafficking charge - on top of a child torture charge they are already battling.
Nicholas Spencer and his wife Mackenzie Leigh Mathias Spencer, both 32, have been in custody in Uganda since December 9 after they were charged with the aggravated torture of a 10-year-old child.
The boy, who is HIV positive, was living under their care in a suburb of Kampala.
Police said that the couple would force the boy to spend the day barefoot and naked, would often make him squat in awkward positions - with his head facing the floor or his hands spread widely - and that he was only served cold meals from a fridge.
Is it true? I suppose we'll find out.
It's worth pointing out that the World Justice Project ranks Uganda's justice system as fairly low among countries around the world, so it might be hard to know what to make of any court's conclusions there. Bribery and false testimony are rampant in many nations of the world, so it will likely take independent media and government pressure, as well as transparency and diligence from their NGO employer, to bring the truth to light.
The couple arrived in Uganda in 2017 to volunteer at a US-based non-profit in the town of Jinja, before moving to Naguru, an upmarket Kampala suburb, to work at a start-up, police said.
Prosecutors accuse them of having recruited, transported and kept the 10-year-old child for 'purposes of exploitation,' according to the charge sheet.
An alleged caretaker also contacted the media about the couple (it's important to note that anonymous testimonies to the media are not the same as testimonies under oath in court):
In an interview with the newspaper, a woman who said she was the boy's caretaker spoke anonymously about what she saw and also alleged he had a camera in his room watching his every move.
The caretaker said: 'I wanted to leave the job, but I knew if I left without doing something about it, the torture would continue.'
She added that the couple only abused one of their three foster children because they claimed the 10-year-old boy was stubborn, hyperactive and mentally unstable, and they used the punishments to keep him in line.
The couple reportedly work for "MoTIV Uganda," a financial NGO that works with artisans to help them create local goods and compete on a larger scale in the market. Much of the local industry in African nations has been destroyed over the past few decades by the influx of cheap goods from Asia and the West.
On its LinkedIn, the organization says it "provides creatives with the opportunity to access factories, training, a tribe, and a marketplace where brands sell their products."
On a GoFundMe page from 2019, MacKenzie Spencer posted this:
I moved to East Africa nearly 3 years ago with my husband, Nick, and we have been doing humanitarian work focused on women's empowerment and education. We are also foster parents to 3 incredible children.
The couple also faces issues with their work visas:
The couple also face charges of remaining in the country illegally, as their work permits have expired.
The US Embassy in Kampala says it is aware of the arrest and is monitoring the situation.