During a recent visit to Nalufenya, MPs on the Human Rights committee, investigating alleged torture at the notorious detention facility, ignored key pieces of information provided by police officials accused of torturing Kamwenge town council mayor, Geoffrey Byamukama.
The omission formed the major highlight of the minority report presented in the House yesterday by Anthony Akol, the Kilak North MP. Speaker Rebecca Kadaga last week directed the committee to visit the detention facility in Jinja, following a loud public outcry over the brutal torture of Byamukama, as well as suspects in the murder of AIGP, Andrew Felix Kaweesi.
The committee was supposed to establish the legal status of Nalufenya and the conditions under which suspects are handled, including verifying allegations of torture.
Yesterday during the tabling of the main report, it emerged that crucial evidence, which could have helped the MPs learn more about when and where Byamukama was tortured, was ignored by the committee.
Committee chairperson, Jovah Kamateeka (Mitooma Woman), told MPs yesterday that during their visit, the legislators interacted with Assistant Superintendents of Police (ASP) Patrick Muramira and Fred Tumuhairwe, accused of torturing Byamukama.
The two officers told the MPs that after arresting Byamukama at the ministry of Lands offices on April 6, they drove straight to Nalufenya.
“They informed the committee that they arrested the mayor through phone tracking, put him in the van and drove to Nalufenya.
At Nalufenya, the mayor was in perfect shape without any bruises or scratch on the body,” the majority report reads in part. “According to them [police officers], this can be proven by the CCTV cameras at the reception that show the mayor walking without support,” the report suggested further.
However, Akol said this detail was ignored by the committee, yet it would have come in handy to ascertain whether the officers were telling the truth or no. Akol said the committee also didn’t look into claims that some suspects were transferred to other detention facilities including Luzira ahead of their visit.
“We didn’t have the time to check out the CCTV cameras to confirm this,” Akol told the House.
Akol also disputed the main committee report’s suggestion that on the face of it, there was no evidence of inhumane torture at Nalufenya. He said their visit was announced and that gave their hosts a lot of time to clean up.
In his minority report, Akol listed a number of suspects who received treatment for torture marks at a health center within the facility during the committee’s visit but were not part of the suspects interviewed.
He said suspects received treatment that morning for wounds and soft tissue injuries and they include; a one William who was treated for pain in ankle joints; Fred who was treated for deformities and taken for physiotherapy; Suleiman was treated for wounds and soft tissue; Charles was treated for a painful body; Yusuf was treated for open wounds and Turyagyenda treated for soft tissue injuries.
Akol said this information was contained in the medical record books at the health center. The two reports also disagreed on the legal status of Nalufenya.
Hinging on the classification of Nalufenya as a police station, Kamateeka agreed that while the committee deemed it necessary to have such a gazetted facility, the police should observe and respect standards of freedom from torture. Akol instead recommended that Nalufenya should be closed.
“It contravenes the Constitution, which states in Article 24 that no person shall be subjected to any form of torture or cruel, inhumane or degrading treatment or punishment,” Akol said.
He further recommended that the Directorate of Public Prosecutions (DPP) should investigate and prosecute those accused of torture.
The minister of state for Internal Affairs, Mario Obiga Kania, angered MPs when he insisted that Byamukama had a prior medical condition which aggravated upon detention.
“Police got information soon after his arrest that the suspect had a swelling on his leg and had a long history of complicated ailments based on the information he gave the medical team at Nalufenya,” Obiga said amidst murmurs.
He said Nalufenya was not an illegal detention facility but was gazetted as a police station in 1954 and was recently designated as a detention facility for terrorist and other high-profile suspects.
Regarding the Byamukama torture suspects, the minister assured the MPs that they would be arraigned in court. During debate on the reports, shadow justice minister Medard Sseggona (Busiro East) expressed worry over the long periods of detention of suspects, which ultimately contravenes the 48-hour rule to arraign suspects in court.
“This confirms pre-meditated action on the part of the police that they do not intend to charge these suspects. Prominent in the two reports is the continued interference of police work by sister security agencies and the continued blame game …,” Sseggona opined, adding that the limitation of the public from accessing the health center within the facility is confirmation that there is torture in the facility.
Muwanga Kivumbi (Butambala) named Herbert Muhangi, Francis Wolugo, Kanara, Magada and Musana among the chief torturers at Nalufenya and other police stations.