Parliament to Investigate Human Rights Violations
The Deputy Speaker, Anita Among has directed the Committee on Human Rights to investigate the alleged human rights violations by security operatives.
On 03 February 2022, Opposition Members of Parliament led by the Leader of the Opposition, Hon Mathias Mpuuga walked out of Parliament protesting what they termed as the continued violation of rights of Ugandans by security operatives.
Mpuuga said that they have on several occasions raised the matter of incarceration of their colleagues, Hon Muhammad Ssegirinya, the Kawempe North MP and Hon Allan Ssewanyana, the Makindye West MP in vain.
While chairing the plenary sitting on 08 February 2022, Anita Among gave the Committee on Human Rights, 45 days to report back with findings on alleged human rights violations of suspects.
“We feel ashamed by what state operatives keep doing and yet we have a good Constitution. We want the minister to pass a message to perpetrators of torture; there are specific individuals doing it, she said.
She said that Parliament will champion efforts to ensure that the Constitution is respected and upheld.
“Let us leave politics aside and separate criminality from politics. This should be handled in a systematic manner. Article 21(1) of the Constitution provides for equality and freedom from discrimination,” Among said.
She pointed out that government is accountable for everybody saying that the errant security operatives perpetrating torture should be prosecuted.
“Who makes them do that? Are they above the law? Do you need our help, if you do, we are here,” she said.
The Deputy Speaker’s directive came after a statement by the Minister of Public Service, Hon Muruli Mukasa, in response to reports of alleged human rights violations by security operatives.
Muruli Mukasa said that torture is not a policy of government or a method of interrogation.
“The law on this is very clear. The President has in his own words stated the position and policy of government,” Muruli said.
He also explained that political party affiliation does not invite criminal liability under the laws.
“Breach of due process in enforcement of the law also has remedies for those who feel mistreated or unlawfully treated,” the Minister said.
The Chairperson of the Human Rights Committee, Hon Fox Odoi said that the committee will undertake investigations as mandated by the Rules of Procedure saying that MPs need to debate based on facts.
“The committee will start investigations on 10 February 2022. Every cultured person should detest torture. The Bible instructs us to treat fellow humans only as we want them to treat us,” Odoi said.
Hon Muhammad Nsereko (Indep., Kampala Central) however, disagreed with the Minister saying that, ‘there is a pattern, showing that after every election, there are spates of torture meted against Ugandans’.
“In the past 10 years, it has become routine for President Museveni to address the nation on torture. We cannot keep quiet; our silence is deepening. If we go silent, where will our people run to? What message are we sending out,” Nsereko asked.
Kumi Municipality MP, Hon Silas Aogon wondered what the government is doing to stop torture saying that Article 24 of the Constitution is clear on handling and prosecution of suspected criminals.
“It is the duty of Parliament to speak up against torture or else chapter 4 of the Constitution becomes redundant,” Aogon said.
Bugabula County North MP, Hon John Teira called for clear guidelines on the handling of perpetrators of torture saying that the continued brutality by security operatives puts the image of government at stake.
“Every day, non-uniformed men brutally arrest people on streets. These find their way on social media and it is ashaming. Must we take pride in carrying out torture,” Teira said.
Hon Jonathan Ebwalu (Indep., Soroti County West) who narrated his ordeal in which he alleged that he was tortured, decried the brutality of state operatives, saying that innocent Ugandans are rotting in jail without being prosecuted.
“I was not produced in court and released unconditionally. Torture happens everywhere. Security people, stop torturing us, stop torturing Ugandans,” said Ebwalu.
Hon Noah Mutebi Wanzala (NRM, Nakasongola County) pointed out the need to bring security operatives to order.
“We are not castigating government. Police used curfew to torture Ugandans, people have been beaten,” he said.