Parliament Faults Human Rights Commission for Doing Less About Torture Claims

UHRC Chairman, Med Kaggwa appearing before the Parliament committee on human rights.

Members of Parliament (MPs) sitting on the Parliament Committee of Human Rights have expressed disappointment in the Uganda Human Rights Commission (UHRC) for not doing much as Ugandans continue to be tortured in safe houses run by security organs.

The legislators of the 10th Parliament expressed their frustrations while interfacing with officials from UHRC led by the Chairperson, Med Kaggwa on the ongoing probe into the alleged torture of Ugandans in Safe Houses.

The URHC Chairman began by appreciating the committee for complementing their work as well as consoling them for the frustration they faced on Tuesday when they were blocked from accessing the premises said to be safe houses around Kampala.

Kaggwa said that the Commission has registered a number of successes in regards to fighting acts of torture and illegal detention in the country.

“The issue of safe houses had died out but it is now resurrecting. In 2006, CMI and ISO acknowledged running safe houses but denied using them for torture. They said they use them for keeping criminals whom they can’t allow to interact with other prisoners in gazatted detention centres,” Kaggwa told the committee.

Kaggwa said that before the closure of Nalufenya torture chamber, Ugandans kept complaining about it not until they made a visit to the facility and recommended that it is closed.

“On our visit, we found 36 inmates and I talked to each one of them and a week later, some of the inmates called me and thanked me that when I left, they were released,” Kaggwa said.

Kaggwa noted however that the Commission has always had to request permission to visit any detention centers including military facilities unlike gazette Police cells and Prisons were he can walk in at anytime so as to carry out any desired investigations.

He said that given the current claims of safe houses in the country, the Commission has requested for a meeting with the Security chiefs in the country which is likely to take place on Friday.

The submission by the Commission Chairperson raised a number of questions and displeasure from the legislators. The committee Chairperson, Jennifer Nantume Egunyu wondered why the Uganda Human Rights Commission has not held any investigations ever since the closure of Nalufenya detention facility despite the many cries relating to torture, registered by Ugandans.

“You are the custodians of human rights in Uganda, it looks as if you haven’t been working since the closure of Nalufenya to date, yet some people have been raising a number of complaints,” Nantume said.

Kyadondo East MP, Robert Kyagulanyi noted that it is so absurd that despite reporting to the Commission after his alleged torture in Arua, he has never been invited to appear before the Commission and nothing has been done to his case.

“I filed my petition but I have never been invited for hearing; I am wondering if this is happening to me, what about the other Ugandans?” Kyagulanyi said.

Bukoli County MP, Ouma Abbot noted that the Uganda Human Rights Commission should be held accountable for abetting torture since they are paid by uphold human rights but they have failed in their duty.

In response to the concerns raised by the MPs, Kaggwa noted that the legislators are so unfair to castigate them on a mandate that they share with Parliament.

“We should be respected for the little we have done, we can’t be cowards to resign, we are here to serve people, human rights is a passion,” Kaggwa said.

Kaggwa noted that their role is to investigate and make a report to Parliament who must act upon the recommendations by the Commission.


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