MPs give conflicting reports on Nalufenya detainees

MPs give conflicting reports on Nalufenya detainees
Gulu Municipality Member of Parliament, Lyandro Komakech, notes that although Nalufenya is gazetted as a police post, the circumstances under which the suspects are taken there make it a torture facility. Courtesy Photo.

The police detention facility at Nalufenya in Jinja District continues to generate controversy after Members of Parliament gave conflicting reports after visiting the area on Friday.

Legislators sitting on the Human Rights Committee of Parliament were at Nalufenya to inspect the facility on the directives of the Speaker of Parliament Rebecca Kadaga following wide spread allegations of torture of suspects there.

In her letter to Jovah Kamateeka, the Human Rights Committee Chairperson, the Clerk to Parliament Jane Kibirige listed six terms of reference for the committee, key among them being to establish the legal status of the Nalufenya Police facility especially in regards to holding suspects.

The committee members were also required to visit cells/detention facilities and assess the condition of the suspects, interrogate them about the allegations of torture by police personnel and also interrogate officers in charge of the facility about the torture allegations among others.

A 15-member team led by Kamateeka arrived at the facility at around 12:30PM on Friday and they went into a meeting until 7pm. Journalists were denied access to the facility.

Despite the many reports in the media last week about torture, Kamateka later told reporters that Nalufenya is established legally and that the suspects were in good conditions.

“We found over twenty suspects and they told us that they are in good condition. They are fed well and the place is clean, and there is no torture inside. But the details will be in the report we shall issues on Tuesday,” she said

However, the other members with whom Kamateeka inspected the facility have a different opinion about the place. Lyandro Komakech, Gulu Municipality Member of Parliament said that Godfrey Byamukama, the Kamwenge town council chairperson told them that he was tortured.

Komakech also said that Byamukama, who can hardly stand because of the wounds inflicted on his body, told them that he is undergoing treatment from Jinja Regional Referral Hospital.

He also said that the police denied allegations of torturing Byamukama noting that he was brought to Nalufenya when he already had the wounds.

Anthony Akol, the Kilak North MP, notes that the detainees have been indoctrinated and intimidated. He said that most of them declined to speak for fear of more torture. He adds that there is need for action since torture can be inflicted on anyone regardless of the political affiliation.

David Abala, the MP for Ngora county says that all the detainees say that they were not tortured from inside Nalufenya. He says that the committee is going to investigate claims that there is a house within Jinja district where the suspects are tortured from and then detained at Nalufenya.

Komakech notes that although Nalufenya is gazetted as a police post, the circumstances under which the suspects are taken there make it a torture facility.

Police spokesperson Asan Kasingye maintains that there is no torture at the facility. He says that the detainees are in good condition and that the facility was established legally. “Just like Luzira, there is limitation in accessing the prison. Nalufenya also has its guidelines given the calibre of suspects. If journalists feel that they want these guidelines changed, there is a legal way of doing this,” he said

The committee is also required to establish the authenticity or veracity of the torture allegations made by suspects in Nalufenya and report back to parliament on May 23, 2017.

Uganda Police Force came under fire from parliament early this week for allegedly torturing suspects in its custody in connection to the murder of former police spokesperson, Andrew Felix Kaweesi, his body guard, Kenneth Erau and Driver, Godfrey Mambewa in March this year.

It came after some of the suspects appeared in court limping with fresh wounds and scars they claimed to have been inflicted on them by police personnel in Nalufenya Police facility to compel them to confess for the murder of the police spokesperson.

Byamukama, one of the suspects, was last week admitted at Nakasero Hospital with open wounds on his body he claims were inflicted during torture. Kasingye, after initially denying that Byamukama was tortured, admitted that “there was a scuffle during arrest and that the Kamwenge chairperson sustained “superficial injuries.”