Government fails to shoot down Arua torture probe report

Parliament has tasked government to investigate the alleged torture of Members of Parliament and other civilians who were arrested on the last day of campaigns in the Arua Municipality by-elections.

MPs Robert Kyagulanyi aka Bobi Wine (Kyadondo East), Francis Zaake Butebi (Mityana Municipality), Paul Mwiru (Jinja Municipality East), Gerald Karuhanga (Ntungamo Municipality) and Kassiano Wadri (Arua Municipality) were brutally arrested and tortured with 28 other opposition supporters.

Kyagulanyi and Zaake have since travelled out of the country for treatment in the USA and India respectively.

The entire group is facing treason charges resulting from an alleged stoning of President Yoweri Museveni’s convoy.

A report of the Ad hoc committee that was instituted by Parliament on August 16 to investigate the condition of MPs and other suspects who were arrested in the run-up to the Arua Municipality by-election implicated the security forces in the torture of the suspects.

The report was presented by Mitooma Woman MP Jovah Kamateeka on behalf of the committee chairperson, Doreen Amule (Amolatar Woman), the only person on the six member committee who refused to sign the report.

The committee recommended that individuals and state institutions that were involved in the derogation of human rights and dignity be punished.

“The military and other errant state functionaries that are complicit in violating the law and eroding human rights and dignity should account for their actions,” the report reads in part.

The committee findings illicit a heated debate with the government side urging Parliament to reject the report that Prime Minister Dr Ruhakana Rugunda said was filled with biased and unsubstantiated opinions.

“We needed the committee to visit the initial site of the problem… I have not seen a report of this committee talking with President Museveni who was the first victim pelted with stones,” Rugunda said.

He lauded the security forces for the prompt action that contained the situation in Arua and Kampala, adding that government would leave no stone unturned in its investigations.

“I am glad that this has been a test where we see the organs of the state including the judiciary, executive and legislature performing their work well,” Rugunda said.

Giving her account based on what she saw when she visited the two badly injured MPs, the Leader of the Oppositionin Parliament Betty Aol Acan urges Parliament to adopt the report that she said was based on facts.

“We went to Makindye Barracks and were chased away like dogs. We then went to Lubaga Hospital and found Hon Zaake who had been tortured,” Aol said.

Lwemiyaga MP Theodore Ssekikubo said that by the government giving Kyagulanyi and Zaake clearance to travel abroad for treatment is evidence enough to prove that they had suffered torture.

“We are aware that the MPs were referred abroad by competent doctors like Dr Ssekitoleko of Lubaga Hospital after conducting tests on them. Government doctors who examined them at Kiruddu Hospital also gave them a go-ahead,” Ssekikubo said.

Rugunda’s efforts to shoot down the report suffered a serious blow when some of the unexpected voices on the NRM side like Solomon Silwany, the vice chairman of the NRM caucus added to the opposition voices to condemn torture and human rights violations.

The report was eventually adopted with the lawmakers agreeing to a one month period within which government should investigate the human rights abuses and report back to Parliament.

“I propose that the House resolves that those individuals that are complicit should be investigated, prosecuted and punished,” ruled Deputy Speaker Jacob Oulanyah.