By Mary Asujo
Members of the committee on human Rights of Parliament are planning to visit all government facilities in a bid to verify allegations of gross human rights violations, which prison officials have refuted.
While chairing the committee, Hon. Fox Odoi Oywelowo on Thursday 24, February 2022 told the officials from Uganda Prisons Service of the committee’s intention to pay a visit to all the dentation centres across the country.
The committee was interacting with the officials from the Prisons Service led by the Director of Correctional Services, Samuel Akena, who represented the Commissioner General of Prisons Dr Johnson Byabashaija.
“I would like to use this meeting to inform you that this committee is going to visit all detention facilities to interact with the inmates or whether or not they have experienced any sort of torture from the prisons authorities or other security forces outside the prisons,” Hon Fox Odoi said.
This was after Akena informed the committee that the Prisons have not recorded any cases of torture since January 2020, a statement that shocked MPs who wondered whether the allegations of torture on inmates are self-inflicted.
However, Akena admitted that whereas there are instances where inmates are brought to prison in an unhealthy condition, it is under their jurisdiction to probe what happened to them.
“For us, our mandate is to provide safe custody to the people who are brought to prison. Our mandate is to treat and take good care of those who come with health issues and it is not our concern to find out what happened to them,”
Akena said they have a zero tolerance policy on torture of inmates and that any staff or prisoner who is involved in acts of torture is immediately handed over to Police for prosecution. He also denied the allegations that prison authorities partake in the torture of prisoners.
“It is true we have not recorded any case of torture since January 2020. However, we have had disciplinary cases involving violation of rights of prisoners and the culprits have been dealt with,” he said.
Hon James Baba Boliba (NRM, Koboko County) blamed the prison authorities for paying a deaf ear to allegations of torture on prisoners, saying it is within their authority to seek further information on what happened to the inmates before being brought to them.
“When you receive these people, you are supposed to record their condition and in case of torture then you find out what happened to them,” Baba said.
Fox Odoi re-echoed that it is still the responsibility of the prison authorities to investigate cases of torture even if the prisoners were not tortured by the prison warders.
He directed Akena to avail the committee with a list of prisoners who have allegedly been tortured ahead of another scheduled meeting.
On 08 February 2022, the Deputy Speaker Anita Among directed the Committee on Human Rights to investigate allegations of torture on prisoners by security personnel.