Kampala, Uganda | THE INDEPENDENT | Jamil Mukulu, the leader of the Allied Democratic Forces-ADF has said he’s being subjected to untold suffering and degrading treatment at Luzira maximum prison where he’s currently on remand on the charges of terrorism, aggravated robbery, murder and aiding and abetting terrorism.
In a letter written to the African Center for Treatment and Rehabilitation of Torture Victims- ACTV, Mukulu says at Luzira where he has been since 2016, he has been subjected to all manner of torture by those who are supposed to protect him.
He particularly points out the Officer in Charge of Luzira prison Moses Sentalo who he describes as having a deep seated hatred for him.
Mukulu’s 15-page letter reads in part: “The OC has a deeply rooted intense dislike for me and for Muslims specifically. He denied me access to medical care which led me to contract diabetes. He harasses, persecutes and stigmatizes me whenever he gets a scapegoat. He may find me preparing my meal, fetches some portion of it and then throws it in the dustbin. He confiscates my lawfully acquired possessions such as my blood pressure machine, my books including a copy of the Holy Quran, medicines. He also calls me names like Kisiraamu, kipinga, ekishaija or ekiganda. He sends his henchmen to harass and persecute me with intension to provoke me into a quarrel. He denied me to make telephone calls to my lawyers and relatives while he allows other prisoners to. The reason being that he doesn’t want me to narrate to my lawyers and relatives the assassination attempt on my life.”
It adds that on severally days, he has been subjected to severe beating by either prison warders or fellow prisoners who are sent to his room where he’s held in solitary confinement.
“One time they were beating me severely and then I burst out and shouted to them that you are the government, you are not supposed to do this, then one started to hit me severally with the handcuffs held in his hand until one of the incisors inner part got broken,” Mukulu says. “They could at some intervals surround me with batons and beat me until they become tired one of them could say, ‘eehe nange leka neekubire ku Mukulu owa ADF’.
He adds that ever since he was extradited to Uganda in 2015, he has been denied access to justice because of the way the government is dragging its feet in having his case heard and determined.
Herbert Nsubuga, the Chief Executive Officer ACTV acknowledged receiving Mukulu’s petition. However, due to the lockdown that restricted access to prisons across the country, they have not been able to handle his and other cases of torture.
“We applied for movement permits but they never gave us any, so we are stuck. The best we can do is to have teleconference counselling services especially to deal with the psychological effects,” Nsubuga said.
He adds that in the past they have obtained court orders to go to prisons to treat people who have been tortured but since last year when the ban was instituted, they have not visited prisons.
“We have an arrangement with the Uganda Prisons Services where we go and treat people who have been tortured and we rehabilitate them,” Nsubuga goes on. “We also help them access justice either through the Uganda Human Rights Commission or through the courts of law. The security forces are overzealous in implementing the lockdown and we have also got out of an election. Therefore, there are many cases of torture which need our attention.”
He adds that they have tried to create awareness among the security forces and the communities to stop torturing suspects but unfortunately this has not stopped despite the existence of laws that make it criminal to torture people.
“It’s only the private individuals not security officers who have been prosecuted and convicted for torture,” Nsubuga said. “There is no will to end torture, we need to push for the implementation of the legal framework. We want the security agencies to understand that torture is a no go area.”
Contacted for a comment, Frank Baine, the spokesperson of the Uganda Prison Services said Mukulu is treated like any other prisoner in the manner that the prison knows best.
“The management of the prison has its dynamics, I’m not going to discuss how prisoners bathe in the morning, how they eat food at lunch,” Baine said. “If the OC finds it necessary that this person must be alone, then there are places to be put alone. If I’m going to discuss the running of the day to day work of the prison in the media, then I’m not doing my work.”
On why they are not allowing organizations like ACTV to continue with their work in prisons, Baine said it is not them who instituted a lockdown. “Why are we in the lockdown, how can they declare a national lockdown and then for us you want us to operate as usual? the spokesperson wondered. “Everybody wants to be free but that can’t happen. The guidelines we got from the ministry of health were not to allow visitors and the status quo will remain until the situation changes. But those who rightly must come and use the right channels, they still have access to where they have to go,” Baine said.
This is not the first time Mukulu is complaining about torture by writing to Human Rights Organizations. Previously he has written to the Foundation of Human Rights Initiative complaining about the way he is treated. In his appearance before court, Mukulu has also levelled these charges of torture against different security forces who have held him before.