Nsereko Arthur (L), the Coordinator of NETPIL and Kiiza Eron (R) the NETPIL Chairman address the press at Makerere University Guest House on Thursday
Lawyers under the umbrella body of public interest litigation have lambasted the police and government for not doing enough to stop the unconstitutional torture of suspected criminals, calling for the closure of the infamous Nalufenya detention facility.
They have called for an immediate inquiry into the processes and status of the Jinja based facility to establish whether it is lawfully gazetted.
In a lengthy and critical statement released Thursday afternoon, Network of Public Interest Lawyers (NETPIL) also criticized the Director of Public Prosecution Mike Chibita for failing to use his constitutional mandate to bring the perpetrators of torture acts to book.
They accuse him of choosing to remain silent and frustrating torture related cases reported to him, including one involving a Nicholas Byonanebye a student of Kabale University who was assaulted by the Kabale Deputy RDC in 2016.
“We filed complaints on October 25 and December 22 2016 with the DPP’s office but no feedback has been furnished to date despite repeated visits to his office,” the statement read.
“The office of the DPP has failed when it comes to acts of police brutality. It is baffling that the DPP consciously receives suspects who are in a deplorable state and without flinching leads them to the dock for mention of their case to take plea without questioning the cause.”
The statement questions the independence of the judiciary in exercising its powers, citing the recent court hearing in which suspected murderers of former AIGP Andrew Felix Kaweesi claimed they had been tortured in Nalufenya but court paid no attention.
“All that court did was remand the suspects without any pronouncement or investigation into the allegations.”
Kiiza Eron, the Chairman of NETPIL while addressing journalists on Thursday said; “What is more disturbing is how and why courts continue to remand accused persons to police stations” questioning where they (courts) derive such legal discretion.”
“Nalufenya should be a police station not prison. We need the 3 arms of government to close it and investigate its legal status,” Nsereko Arthur, the Coordinator of NETPIL who also works with Public Interest Law Clinic (PILAC) at Makerere University said.
The group equally punched holes in President Museveni’s recent statement in which he called out police on torturing suspects.
The lawyers say the statement trivialized the magnitude of the illegality and that the President could have done more given his constitutional powers.
“Museveni has encouraged torture. He should stop lamenting and start acting on police officers that are meting out torture on accused persons,” Kiiza said.
Nsereko said; “What the President issued was to us a guidance note which downplayed a crime against humanity. Beyond the note, we need to see him crack the whip and superintend over the perpetrators.”
He said that the ‘guidance note’ is not law and therefore bears no significance for redress.
While Uganda Police has previously claimed it has penalized errant officers involved in illegal acts through the Force’s Profession and Standards Unit, the lawyers say the unit has failed to provide substantial proof to Ugandans of the action that has been taken.
“It is one thing to have the structure in place, it is another to get results or redress from this structure. Unfortunately, the public never gets audit of the Unit’s relevance,” the NETPIL statement states.
Police came under public criticism a few weeks ago after graphical photos were published in the media of Kamwenge Mayor Geoffrey Byamukama whose feet and knees bore deep wounds resulting from alleged torture while in police custody.
The police has since denied torturing Byamukama claiming the wounds were related to the suspect’s health condition.
Earlier this week, the Minister of Security Lt. Gen. Tumukunde while speaking to journalists criticized police for not owning up to its wrongs.
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