The Minister for Security, Gen. Elly Tumwine, has dismissed claims that “safe houses” are used as detention and torture facilities by security arms of government.
Gen. Tumwine told the Human Rights Committee of Parliament that safe houses owned by the government are used for intelligence purposes and for providing safety to insecure individuals.
The meeting was held on Wednesday, 4 September 2019.
The Minister was responding to MPs’ claims that people are detained and tortured in safe houses in various parts of the country. The members raised the concerns on the floor of Parliament.
“The safe houses are not being used for torture; we have never sat down in our security council to condone detention erroneously or encourage torture,” he said.
Gen. Tumwine said that safe houses are used to coordinate clandestine operations and for surveillance of hardcore criminals.
He noted however that the government is willing to take action against any officer who illegally takes someone to the safe house and tortures them.
“Some staff whose names we cannot state are on suspension or undergoing disciplinary action for misusing these safe houses,” he added.
Tumwine also said that safe houses are necessary for security operations and that there is no law barring the existence of safe houses. He, however, said that he did not know all the safe houses that exist in the country.
Members were however not convinced with the Minister’s responses to the torture claims and use of safe houses.
The Chairperson, Hon. Jenifer Nantume Egunyu, said that the Minister needs to be clear about the number of safe houses and whether the Committee on Human Rights can visit them.
“We need to know the several safe houses that exist or that you know of. We have heard of safe houses in Kyengera, Kalangala, and others which we want to visit,” she said.
Eng. Denis Sabiiti (NRM, Rubanda West), said that Parliament’s mandate is to find out whether what is prevented by law is not being done in safe houses.
“It is high time we visited these places for clarity of what is going on and make our own judgment as instructed by the Speaker,” Sabiiti added.
Hon. Latif Sebaggala (Ind., Kawempe North) said that the people in safe houses could be anyone and the public needs to know for sure who is there and why they are being held illegally.
“I have a list of people whose relatives were taken by security forces but they cannot access them,” he said, adding that, “Some others have been released from detention in safe houses without any charge”.