“There is an advisory opinion by the Attorney General to parliament against summoning officers under direct command.” This was a statement by General Elly Tumwine the Minister for Security while re-appearing before the Parliamentary Committee on Human Rights which is currently looking into the allegations of torture in safe houses in Uganda. The minister Minister was responding to a question from Hon. Jenifer Nantume Egunyu on why the head of Special Forces Command (SFC), Major General James Birungi and the Internal Security Organisation (ISO) boss, Col. Kaka Bagyenda had not appeared before the committee.
General Elly Tumwine told the committee that since the security agencies had representatives in Parliament, all concerns and questions regarding the security organs be put to said representatives. The minister however declined to provide more information regarding the matter saying that he had been invited to the committee as an individual. He referred the Committee to the Attorney General for more information regarding the advisory.
The committee chair Hon. Jenifer Nantume Egunyu in her ruling noted that they would go-ahead to invite the security officers despite the opinion of General Elly Tumwine. In part she said, “We have our time of writing the report, this is General Tumwine’s opinion. Let us invite them at an appropriate date, and hear what they tell us. If they say they are not coming, still we shall have what to write in the report and inform Parliament.
In response to the questions put to the minister by the committee during the previous meeting, the Minister had told the committee that it was true that Uganda had safe houses and that they were secure places that the military uses for intelligence work. He further observed that all intelligence and security agencies world over operate safe houses and that the running of safe houses was not peculiar to Uganda but rather a worldwide intelligence practice. He highlighted that some functions of a safe house in Uganda included, to coordinate clandestine intelligence operations, debrief and re-brief intelligence assets, secure and protect witnesses in danger, especially criminals who have turned into witnesses, secure persons who come seeking to be protected by the state for various security reasons and manage hard-core criminals who require a long time to reform and now need observation and surveillance.