Report: Nalufenya bosses hid tortured detainees from MPs

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The Observer's Cartoon of the week: Introducing officers from Nalufenya

Parliament has condemned the rampant torture reported in various Police stations and detention facilities in the country.

Debating the Parliament Human Rights Committee Report on alleged torture in the Nalufenya detention facility, in Jinja district, the MPs demanded that perpetuators of torture including those involved in the torture of Kamwenge Town Council Chair, Geoffrey Byamukama, be charged in court other than the Police Force’s disciplinary unit.

The Speaker, Rt. Hon. Rebecca Kadaga, last week tasked the Committee on Human Rights to visit Nalufenya and assess the condition of the suspects therein and inquire from the suspects or detained persons about allegations of torture by Police officers and any other persons at the facility.

On Friday 19th May 2017, the Committee chaired by Hon. Jovah Kamateeka, visited Nalufenya and interviewed the detained persons and examined documents relating to the establishment and legality of the facility.

In the Report, the Committee told Parliament that Nalufenya detention facility was found to be “reasonably very clean” and stated “there was hardly any overt evidence of torture.”

During the visit, MPs on the Committee were informed that the Nalufenya operates as a special Police facility dedicated to handling “high profile cases,” where suspects are taken from any part of the country for investigation and interrogation.

The Committee Chair, Hon. Kamateeka observed that detainees “seem to live under fear and that there is a general fear of disclosure of information to any person. Hence, even though the detainees may want to disclose information, they are constrained.”

She said that because detainees have limited or no access to family, lawyers or doctors, Nalufenya is not a conventional Police station. She added that the facility does not guarantee the protection of personal liberty as provided for in the Constitution of Uganda.

The Committee observed that since the visit was not spontaneous, they could not independently verify the conditions of the facility.

Hon. Anthony Akol (FDC, Kilak North) disagreed with his colleagues on the Committee and presented a Minority Report to the House in which he said that the Facility appeared to have been prepared and even slashed ahead of the visit.

He said that the detainees looked “frightened and fearful” and couldn’t tell MPs about their exact conditions.

“It is clear from this evidence that torture takes place at the Nalufenya detention facility, but the tortured suspects were hidden at the time of the visit of the Committee,” said Hon. Akol.

He recommended that the facility be closed since it contravenes the provisions of the Constitution.

Legislators debating the two reports and the Minister’s Statement said there was need for the Police to respect the Constitution and not to behave like they are above the law.

They said that there were individuals in the Police whose actions were tarnishing the image of the institution and the government in general.

MPs also said that there was need to either gazette Nalufenya as a proper police station where suspects or detainees can be visited and have access to legal representation, or have it closed.

“Let us restore sanity in the Police; Uganda has the most qualified Police personnel in this region,” said Hon. George Ouma adding that, “Those who torture should be individually brought to order and held accountable.”

The Minister of State for Internal Affairs, Hon. Obiga Kania, said that 13 suspects have been arraigned in court in connection with the murder of AIGP Andrew Felix Kaweesi, and have been charged with murder, terrorism and aggravated robbery.

He said that they have also been charged with other offences like defilement, human trafficking and recruitment of children in armed activities.

“I assure this House that all the suspects, including Mr. Byamukama were arrested based on credible and reliable evidence. We strongly believe that the evidence so far gathered will sustain convictions in courts of law,” he said.

He said that the Police did not condone torture and that the institution had mechanisms to prevent the vice.

“There is no Police officer who is not trained on the observance of human rights and particularly that torture has no place in Police operations and investigations,” he said.

Four of the six officers on the arresting team of Byamukama including: ASP Patrick Muramira, ASP Fred Tumuheirwe, Constables Habib Roma and Ben Odeke have been arrested; while Det. Sergeant Ronnie Byenkya and SPC Moses Kasiba are yet to be arrested.

The Minister said that Nalufenya was not an illegal facility but a gazette Police station established in 1954.