Members of parliament's human rights committee who were on Wednesday assigned by the speaker of parliament, Rebecca Kadaga, to investigate cases of torture by security forces, have expressed concern that they might be denied access to the notorious Nalufenya police facility in Jinja district.
After a heated debate in parliament on Tuesday, during which the apparent torture of Kamwenge mayor Geoffrey Byamukama was discussed, Kadaga on Wednesday directed the committee on human rights to investigate the matter and report to parliament.
The plight of Byamukama, a suspect in the murder of AIGP Andrew Felix Kaweesi, was exposed after photos of his wounded body lying on a bed at Nakasero hospital appeared in the media. He was tortured by police officers who arrested and dumped him at Nalufenya.
Other suspects in the murder case had earlier appeared in court, complaining of torture which was evident on their bodies. The police initially denied the allegations, blaming other security organs, only to own up later.
In parliament on Wednesday, Kadaga gave the 29-member human rights committee seven terms of reference, which include examining the Nalufenya facility to establish its legality and the state of the detainees there; and inquiring whether the allegations of torture against them are true.
Chaired by Jovah Kamateeka (Mitooma Woman), the committee is also charged with verifying claims by Kampala Woman MP Nabilah Naggayi that some children of suspects are also being held in the same facility.
During a closed meeting of the committee yesterday morning, a number of legislators expressed skepticism that they will be granted access to the notorious facility, according to our sources.
The skeptical legislators cited a similar situation when their colleagues on the defence and internal affairs committee were denied access to the facility to meet detainees connected to the November 27, 2016 Kasese clashes. Anthony Akol (Kilak North) confirmed these fears in a brief interview with The Observer.
"The defence committee investigated the Kasese clashes but they were not allowed in. So, that is why members have expressed their concern over this, yet they want to go," the MP said. "But if they stop us from accessing the facility, that will still be part of our probe."
Akol added that the MPs might all visit after the authorities have cleaned up the place and hidden detainees with obvious signs of torture. Owing to the MPs' concerns, The Observer has learnt that Kadaga has written to the ministry of Internal Affairs and the inspector general of police, General Kale Kayihura, asking them to allow the MPs to visit the facility on parliamentary duty.
"The information we have got is that for you to go to Nalufenya, you must get authority from police headquarters and the IGP. So, the people who are torturing people are the ones who have to give you permission to go and visit tortured victims. This is laughable," Akol mused.
Asked when the committee would visit Nalufenya, chairperson Kamateeka said they were not sure, adding that logistics for MPs and technical staff are yet to be arranged.
However, a member of the committee told The Observer that a visit could be arranged as early as today (Friday). During Tuesday's fiery debate, Ndorwa East MP Wilfred Niwagaba asked to move a motion calling for deeper investigations into Nalufenya and other detention centers, as well as other incidents of torture by the police.
The motion is to be tabled on Tuesday next week, when the minister of Internal Affairs is expected to present a detailed report on torture at Nalufenya and other police facilities.
The human rights committee is expected to present its report on the same day.
"I have dedicated Tuesday to discuss that subject. We shall discuss the minister's statement, the report of the committee and have the motion. The whole of Tuesday is devoted to that, so we can close it and go into other work," Kadaga told parliament yesterday. "I hope the minister will be ready."