Uganda: Rakai School Fire - Activists Demand Suspect's Release

27 November 2018

Rakai — A group of human rights activists are calling for the immediate release of suspects who were arrested in the aftermath of the fire that claimed 11 lives of Senior Three students at St Bernard's Secondary School, Mannya, Rakai District.

The activists argue that the mandatory 48 hours within which suspects are to be produced before courts of law have since elapsed.

Two out of the five students and a warden who were arrested on November 12, remain in custody at Mannya Police Station.

Officials have given no explanation for the inordinate delay in arraigning the suspects in court or releasing them altogether. Three other students are being held incommunicado.

Suspects' rights

The activists, led by Mr Allan Musasire attached to Katembo and Company Advocates, say failure to produce the suspects before Courts of Law within the mandatory period of 48 hours after the arrest, is a violation of the suspects' rights and has caused great pain to both the parents and the community, who are keenly following up the events with a view of finding justice for whoever was involved in the unfortunate incident.

"These suspects have been in police custody for more than two weeks and have not been produced in court. They should be released if the police have failed to find enough evidence pinning them to the fire incident. We are left wondering why these suspects continue to be held under circumstances that are outside the prescribed laws," Mr Musasire said on Saturday.

He said some of the suspects are juveniles and are not supposed to be detained with the adult suspects.

Ms Shifa Kateregga, the executive director of Human Rights defenders in Masaka said: "We all know that these students together with other suspects are supposed to enjoy their respective rights provided by the constitution of Uganda. These students are right now still innocent until they are proved guilty before Courts of law," Ms Kateregga said.

However, Mr Charles Mubiru, the head of security in Rakai District, said in a telephone interview with the Daily Monitor on Saturday that the matter is intricate and is being handled with care.

"The matter is of national concern and the top security organs are all involved in the investigation process. I believe nobody would want this matter to end without finding out what exactly happened and who was responsible."

STILL IN CUSTODY

Two out of the five students and a warden of St Bernard's Secondary School Mannya, who were arrested on November 12, remain in custody at Mannya Police Station.

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