The Parliamentary Committee on Human Rights has produced two conflicting reports on the alleged torture of suspects at Nalufenya police detention facility, sparking debate on the matter. One was submitted by the Chair of the Human Rights Committee and another ‘minority report.’
In the first report that was intended to examine the status of Nalufenya and the alleged cases of torture, the Human Rights Committee Chair Jovah Kamateeka told the House that there is actually no torture and that the suspects are well fed.
“The facility appeared reasonably very clean. There was hardly any overt evidence of torture,” stated the major report.
The report further stated that the facility, on average holds less than 50 inmates and most often suspects are transferred to Luzira Prison after trial on court within a period of one week and that, “the committee could not establish whether there had been overcrowding or not or whether those transferred had been tortured at the facility.”
“On the day of the visit, the committee found 21 suspects all of whom were male except one,” added the report.
However the minority report by Kilak North MP Anthony Akol revealed to Parliament that the committee was treated to a setup of a well-organised police facility.
Akol said that that upon interrogating the patients’ book at the facility’s clinic, they were shocked with cases that confirm torture.
“The medical records book revealed that many suspects were being treated with conditions like soft tissues injury, open wounds, wounds, and pain in ankle joints as well as bruises and physical deformations,” said Akol.
The lawmaker, in a dissenting one-man report, recommended for the House to close Nalufenya detention facility for gross abuse of rights, and meting out torture to suspects
Meanwhile both reports confirmed that the Nalufenya camp was gazetted as a police detention facility in the colonial era in 1954. The report followed a directive by the Speaker Rebecca Kadaga to examine alleged cases of torture after images of tortured suspects went viral in the public.
Central to the concerns of torture is Kamwenge LC III Chairman, Geoffrey Byamukama who was visibly tortured. Both reports confirmed that from his own testimony, Mr Byamukama was tortured by officers who arrested him at the lands office in Kampala.
Government through the minister of State for Internal Affairs, Mr Mario Obiga Kania maintained that it does not condoned torture and that four of the officers implicated in Byamukama’s torture have since been apprehended and awaiting investigations by the police professional standards unit.
In an ensuing debate, lawmakers unanimously agreed that there were cases of torture and demanded for action to be taken.
Ms Mariam Naigaga, the Namutumba Woman MP said that, “based on the report, if all cases treated are to deal with wounds and tissue damage, then there is torture without any doubt.”
She said that the government must heed to the embarrassment and apologise.
In a related development, Justine Khainza (NRM-Bududa) described the reported cases of torture as “a shame if our own government can resort to torture as a means of extorting information from suspects”
“We no longer have patriots in the army, and victims of torture must be compensated such they can undergo medication,” she said.
The debate that witnessed no block on criticism was enjoined by Mr Wilfred Nuwagaba, the shadow Attorney General who tasked government to de-gazette the facility, since it does not meet up with the standards of a police station as per the 1995 Constitution.
“We cannot continue to claim that Nalufenya is a police station when no one is allowed to freely visit it, no one from the public can access the facility to report a petty case or even seek redress,” said Nuwagaba.
In his statement, the Minister Obiga also confirmed to Parliament that several of the suspects linked to the murder of former police spokesperson Andrew Felix Kaweesi were already in jail at the time of his execution.
Kaweesi was gunned down by unknown assailants at his home in Kulambiro on March 17, this year and the Police force continues to mount investigations into the gruesome murder.
Although government earlier refuted claims by Butambala County MP Muhamad Kivumbi that some of the implicated suspects were already in jail before Kaweesi’s death, the minister, Obiga has today stated to the contrary.
“Before Kaweesi was killed, police in joint security operations had apprehended suspects linked to ADF cells, and those already in jail were involved in the planning, coordination and execution of Comrade Kaweesi,” Obiga said.
The House later adopted both reports and agreed to discuss further, whether or not to close Nalufenya or gazette it. The House also agreed to increase funding for the Uganda Human Rights Commission to effectively execute its mandate.