By Max Patrick Ocaido
Alleged torture victims have narrated their harrowing experiences in the hands of security operatives in safe houses.
The victims who were on Wednesday appearing as witnesses before the parliamentary committee on Human Rights, demanded that government compensates them for the physical, financial and emotional pain they went through in the hands of Internal Security organization (ISO) operatives during their long stay in safe houses.
Recently, Parliament tasked the Human Rights committee headed by Egunyu Nantume (Buvuma Woman MP) to investigate alleged cases of human rights abuse including torture in security safe houses.
The over 10 victims narrated how they were picked by plain clothed operatives as early as 2018 and detained in different safe houses including Kyengera and Kalangala Island.
“I was arrested on 22, May 2018 by plain clothed people, who caned and blindfolded me. They took me to Kyengera where I was chained in the stomach, legs and testicles. I highly doubt I will ever be able to produce children again unless I get adequate treatment,” one of the victims Abdu Mulindwa narrated before he broke into tears.
Alex Adola, another victim requested the committee to investigate ISO director general Kaka Bagyenda for directly spearheading their long detention and torture. He said that ISO operatives robbed their properties and demanded that they are compensated.
“I commend this committee for fighting for our freedom. We wouldn’t be here without this committee. ISO people are bad officers. They put us in a safe house where we couldn’t breathe. We turned pale. We would go to toilets in chains, eat in chains under command of a one Jack Nsagirananbo,” Musa Nsereko, another victim said. Other ISO operatives who have been implicated include; Tumusiime Edward, Okwi Daniel, Opus Opus among others.
In response, Security minister Gen Elly Tumwine condemned the alleged torture in safe houses adding that culpable officers are personally responsible for their actions and will be brought to book.
“We are here to ensure that human rights are not violated and I commend this committee for working together with us. We shall ensure that the officers who have violated human rights are brought to book,” Gen Tumwine said before blaming MPs who recently ‘shamelessly’ raided private houses in search for safe houses.
“Yes we are aware there are some safe houses. However, I was really concerned and somehow ashamed to see MPs enter peoples’ homes, smash gates calling them safe houses. They are better ways to do things,” he said, demanding an apology from the committee.
“If you had asked it could have been very easy to show you which are safe houses and which ones are not. They misled you that this is a safe house. I will blame you and I request this committee to apologize to the public. When you trespass in somebody's home do you apologize or not?” Tumwine said.
The committee MPs however, refused to apologise to the minister saying they were conducting their constitutional role to oversee government institutions. The committee chairperson on several occasions ruled Tumwine out of order for asking Members to apologise yet the same minister earlier on declined to show them the location of the safe houses.
Apart from Kyengera safe house, Gen Tumwine declined to list any other safe house saying, “there are some places which are inaccessible by the public.”
“For the other houses, the people there will no longer be safe if they are exposed. In fact they will no longer be safe houses if the list is given to you (MPs),” he said.