After mayor released quietly, 21 victims accuse security
Kampala, Uganda | HAGGAI MATSIKO | The ping pong being played by security authorities in handling the case involving over 20 suspects charged with the murder of AIGP Felix Kaweesi, his body guard and driver, has renewed concerns of human rights observers.
The latest controversy involves the release following a five-month detention without trial of former Kamwenge Mayor, Godfrey Byamukama, who made news in April over the severe torture that police meted out on him.
The case of Byamukama, who has been released with no single charge, became public when gruesome pictures emerged during the Easter season, days after he had been arrested, showing his deep wounds on kneecaps, which appeared like they had been drilled and scooped of fresh that revealed the full extent of the torture.
Critics are alarmed that police quietly released Byamukama with no single explanation to the public and no public apology to him after severely torturing him to confess to the murder of Kaweesi.
Kaweesi and his body guard Kenneth Erau and driver Geoffrey Mambewa were murdered on March 17 when assailants riding on motorbikes waylaid them and sprayed bullets into the car they were driving in.
In the days and months that followed, police and the Chieftance of Military Intelligence (CMI) carried out unprecedented operations, arresting, and torturing scores in a bid to force them to confess to the murders.
At least 21 of these suspects are being held in Luzira Maximum Security Prison in Kampala over four counts; terrorism, two counts of murder and aggravated robbery.
Some of them have sued the government for allegedly abusing their human rights. Their case is being handled by renowned human rights lawyer Laudislaus Rwakafuzi.
Both cases are in the initial stages but Rwakafuzi says he is already frustrated by what he calls “deliberate efforts to subvert justice”.
On Sept.06, prison authorities denied experts from the African Centre for the Treatment and Rehabilitation of Torture Victims (ACTV) access to examine some of the suspects.
As a result, Rwakafuzi spent Sunday evening holed up in his office at Uganda House on Kampala Road planning on how to beat this latest huddle.
The said examination, Rwakafuzi explained, was ordered by court as it is critical to prove the torture allegations.
Rwakafuzi told The Independent that court had on Aug. 31 given an order for experts to examine the suspects who say they were tortured. But when ACTV wrote to the prison authorities seeking permission to access the suspects, prison authorities denied them access. The denial came in a Sept.6 letter noting that ACTV was not allowed to examine and compile a report. They would only be allowed in to observe as the prison authorities examined the suspects. The report from the examination would go to the prison authorities and not court. ACTV was supposed to submit its report to lawyers the same day they received the letter.
The response from the prison authorities was surprising because, Rwakafuzi said, it was a violation of a court order and a contradiction on their part. The prison authorities had just a few weeks before allowed ACTV to access and examine suspects following another court order.
In a June 21 application to court, their lawyers demanded that court declares that the suspects were tortured, that their continued detention was unconstitutional, the confiscation of their property was also unconstitutional and also asked court to allow experts to examine the suspects to confirm to torture.
The prisons authorities allowed ACTV to examine 19 suspects and their reports, which The Independent has seen, confirm that the suspects were severely tortured and are still suffering from the after effects.
Some of the suspects experience sleep disorders, have intense headache, lacerations, body pains, others cannot walk without clutches and others cannot hold with two hands because of the torture.
But it is results of the psychological evaluations that are more disturbing.
All the evaluations reveal “severe physiological suffering which is consistent with general physiological consequences of traumatic exposure”. All of the reports also show that the suspects suffer severe post-traumatic stress.
When other suspects three suspects heard about these examinations and the purpose behind them—to be submitted to court to show torture—they also requested to be examined. The victims are; Ayub Sauda, Kalyango Gibriel and Yusuf Nyanzi.
Rwakafuzi says he suspects the prison authorities are trying to protect the other government institutions who are responsible for the torture of these suspects.