Wednesday, May 24, 2017

Parliament tells Uganda govt to close Nalufenya #Torture chambers - #HumanRights @IGPUganda @aKasingye @UPDFspokesman @KagutaMuseveni @USAmbUg @EuAmbSchmidt

Two blunt re ports by Parliament’s Human Rights Committee have further lifted the lid on the harrowing tales of torture meted out on suspects at the Nalufenya high security detention facility with some detainees found with blood oozing out of their ears.
Both the majority report, and a minority one authored by the Kilak County North MP Anthony Akol, paint a grim picture of the detention centre with suspects detained incommunicado beyond the legal 48 hours allowed in a facility not gazzeted as a police facility.
MPs on the Human Rights Committee were allowed rare access to the secluded facility on the banks of River Nile in Jinja on Friday last week after police came under wide-ranging condemnation over terrorising suspects at the facility.
The minority report recommends the immediate closure of Nalufenya and presses for police officers implicated in the torture to be charged in court, as prescribed by the Prevention of Torture Act, but not tried by the Professional Standards Unit (PSU) as is being done by the Uganda Police Force.
In the minority report, Mr Akol reproduced medical records picked from the clinic at Nalufenya detention facility with suspects treated with grievous injuries ranging from open wounds, soft tissues injuries, and concussion; all injuries that paint a gruesome picture of what torturous methods the detainees go through.
In its defence to Parliament yesterday evening, the government, through the Internal Affairs State Minister Obiga Kania, admitted there are “incidents amounting to torture but they are the exception rather than the norm.”
But the minority report was exact in its presentation. “The committee checked the medical record books which show that many suspects were being treated with conditions like; soft tissues injuries, open wounds, pain in the ankle, bruises, physiotherapy, concussion (shaky brains) and one particular case was brought with blood flowing from the ears,” he stated.
Confronted by MPs to explain why such torture-related injuries are prevalent at the Nalufenya’s medical unit, police officers countered that residents from the neighbourhood accounted for such injuries, an explanation that the report watered down.
“Nalufenya is a restricted area and even the Committee members were harassed at the gate. It was therefore clear that the explanation by AIGP [Asan Kasingye] and the Police that some of the people treated at the clinic come from around Jinja for treatment of wounds, soft tissues is baseless,” counters the report on the identities of patients at the facility’s medical unit.
The Uganda Human Rights Commission (UHRC) experienced similar trouble in accessing the facility.
Nine out of 30 MPs signed the majority report which said operations at the Nalufenya facility fly in the face of Article 23 which touches on the rights of suspects and stipulates they must be detained in gazetted places, allowed access to lawyers and charged in court within 48 hours, according to the Constitution.
The report talks of “lack of coordination in security agencies” and faults the fusion of the police and the military which the Committee indicated accounts for some torture incidents.
Nalufenya has been in the eye of the storm since ghastly images of festering wounds on suspects accused of participating in high-profile assassinations emerged with testimonies pointing to kicking, slapping by police officers as the cause.
Police has been under cross-cutting criticism from President Museveni, Security Minister Lt Gen Henry Tumukunde, Parliament and human rights group over the distressing tales of brutality that have emerged from Nalufenya.
In trying to explain how the authorities at Nalufenya detention facility could have tampered with the evidence of torture and mistreatment of the suspects ahead of MPs visit, the minority report states in part: “… the bed where the [Kamwenge] Mayor is detained looks 4×6 feet bed just bought and prepared for the visit of the committee and even the way the mattresses and beddings in other four rooms where the other suspects were detained look something prepared for the visit of the committee.”
“It is clear from this evidence that torture takes place at Nalufenya but the tortured suspects were hidden at the time of the committee visits to the facility,” indicates the report.
Kamwenge mayor’s case
Kamwenge Town Council Mayor Geoffrey Byamukama, who is accused of participating in the murder of Police spokesman Andrew Felix Kaweesi, and has become the reference point of the torture claims at Nalufenya, is quoted in the minority report as being consoled by distraught cell mates.
“We talked to the mayor and his evidence was that the suspects he was detained with on the first night were about 26 in one small cell consoled him that they all passed through the same torture and he should bear with his torture,” reads the report.
In Parliament, there was bi-partisan disapproval of the conduct of the police, with MPs referencing President Museveni’s admission that the Police has been infiltrated by criminals as evidence that there should be reforms within the force.
Shadow Attorney General Wilfred Niwagaba yesterday argued that a censure motion will be moved against Internal Affairs State Minister Obiga Kania if officers implicated in torture at Nalufenya are not produced in courts of law.
“These are not disciplinary offences. These are criminal offences. Can we have all those responsible for the torture at Nalufenya charged in court unless you want us to begin a censure motion against you,” Mr Niwagaba said.

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