New Vision (Kampala)

18 December 2012

Uganda: Pathologist Intercepted With Nebanda Body Samples

Photo: New Vision
Legislator Cerinah Nebanda

Drama ensued at a requiem mass for the fallen Bataleja district MP Cerinah Nebanda following revelation that a pathologist with body parts had been intercepted at Entebbe airport.

Police have however said in a statement that the pathologist was attempting to smuggle the samples out of the country.

The young outspoken NRM MP died last week under unclear circumstances as she was being rushed to the hospital.

Mourners became rowdy when the Parliamentary Commissioner, Dr. Chris Baryomunsi, told them that police had arrested an independent pathologist at Entebbe International airport as he took Nebanda's body parts to South Africa for a toxicological test.

"As parliament, we agreed to send an independent pathologist to South Africa together with a relative from Nebanda's family, but I was shocked to learn that he was intercepted and arrested at the Airport," said Baryomunsi.

He added that; "I have not yet got information from police but my advice to government is that it must maintain integrity".

It is at this moment, that Lwemiyaga county MP Theodore Ssekikuubo also chairman Parliamentary Forum on oil and gas rose up from his seat and immediately proceeded to make a speech but was stopped Lydia Wanyoto a member of the funeral organizing committee.

PRESS STATEMENT

As the Inspector-General of Police had briefed the public yesterday, Police commenced investigations following the tragic death of Hon. Cerinah Nebanda, and, among other routine procedures, requested Mulago Hospital to conduct a Post-Mortem examination on the body of the deceased.

Police allowed the family and some members of Parliament to send representatives, and observe, the Post-Mortem examination. The preliminary results of the Post-Mortem were inconclusive, and the team of Pathologists referred certain samples to the Government Analytical Laboratories, for further tests.

The samples were sealed as required, and escorted to the Government Analytical Laboratories (GAL) by, among others, the MPs who had witnessed the Post-Mortem.

At GAL, such samples are, as routine procedure, received formally, their descriptions and quantities determined and documented, and the nature of the requested analysis clearly recorded.

This procedure is vital, not just for scientific purposes, but also as part the crucial 'chain-of-custody' requirement in criminal investigations, and, ultimately, in criminal prosecution in court.

Any samples handled outside this procedure breach the integrity of the forensic examinations, as well as making the final outcome inadmissible in any potential criminal prosecution, and suspicious.

On Monday, the 17th of December, 2012, Police discovered that certain samples from the body of the deceased had been irregularly obtained by individuals not involved in the Police investigation, and without knowledge of the Police.

Later in the day, after he had been confronted by CID, a pathologist from Mulago Hospital, Dr. Sylvester Onzivua wrote to the Director of CID, informing the CID that he had been hired by Parliament to carry out parallel forensic investigations into the death of Hon. Cerinah Nebanda, and asked for the Director's advice.

In the evening, a meeting was convened at the offices of the Executive Director of Mulago Hospital, which was attended by five members of Parliament, a team of Police officers led by the Director of CID, two pathologists who participated in the Post-Mortem, and scientists from GAL.

It was resolved that all forensic procedures be consolidated under GAL, and that Dr. Onzivua would submit the samples in his possession to the stipulated procedures.

Early this morning, in direct contravention of the law and professional requirements, and before the Director of CID could respond to his letter, Dr. Sylvester Onzivua attempted to smuggle the samples out of the country. He was arrested at Entebbe Airport, while in possession of the samples.

As a general principle, and in the interests of transparency and professionalism, Police allow representatives of families and other relevant parties to observe, and even seek second opinions, in certain matters under investigation.

This, however, must be done in accordance with the law, while, at all times, observing all the requisite professional procedures that would ensure that the results are credible, and would add value to the Police investigation.

Should a person require extra samples for independent analysis, the procedure demands that such person obtains the samples from GAL, which would oversee the process, document it, and ensure that all scientific fine points are observed.

In this instance, it is not clear what samples were in possession of the third parties, how they were obtained, and the conditions under which they were kept.

Moreover, Dr. Onzivua, who is a civil servant, had not been cleared to travel out of the country, and neither had he obtained the authority required to export the samples out of the country.

Dr. Onzivua is at the moment in custody of the Police, to assist in the determining why he violated the laid down procedures and regulations.

Any person found to have contravened the law shall be dealt with accordingly.

Judith Nabakooba

Police Spokesperson

Uganda Police Force

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