The Minister for Security, Gen Elly Tumwine, has admitted before Members of Parliament of the existence of safe Houses. Gen Tumwine however, told MPs on the Human Rights Committee that they cannot access them.
Tumwine, who was appearing before the committee on Wednesday, 28 August 2019 said that for security considerations, the committee cannot be permitted to visit the safe houses.
“There are areas which for security reasons this committee cannot visit. If a witness who is scared of his colleagues who are criminals runs to the state for protection, would it be wise or in public interest to reveal the whereabouts of such a person?” Tumwine stated.
He further added that the safe houses are for keeping witnesses who are helping government in its intelligence work and investigations.
He instead referred members to the constitutional provisions where relatives of those suspected to be detained in safe houses can report to police and or approach Uganda Human Rights Commission.
This didn’t go down well with legislators who were concerned that they may not execute their mandate as assigned by the Speaker of Parliament. The Speaker had earlier directed the committee to investigate reports about illegal detention, torture and death in ungazetted safe houses.
“This is the whole backbone of our assignment. If we cannot visit safe houses, then we will have to tell Ugandans to find their own solutions” said Hon Angeline Osegge (FDC, Soroti District).
The committee chairperson, Hon Janepher Nantume Egunyu, insisted that Parliament’s rules of procedure, whose mandate is drawn from the Constitution, authorise the committee to investigate reports of torture of Ugandans.
Hon. Robert Kyagulanyi (Ind. Kyandodo East) said that the plight of Ugandans in this matter must take precedence over the security protocols.
“You cannot say that your security work supersedes the rights of Ugandans and that human rights of Ugandans should be ignored,”he said.
Tumwine dismissed as false reports that some people had been tortured or killed in the safe houses.
The committee asked Gen. Tumwine to prepare adequate responses to questions raised by the Members and report back.