By Mary Asujo
The Uganda Human Rights Commission Chairperson Mariam Wangadya said her commission lacks the jurisdiction to punish the perpetrators of torture in Uganda and therefore there isn’t more it can do in the face of recent cases of Human Rights violations.
Wangadya also said the commission has no powers to summon the First Son also Commander of Land Forces, Muhoozi Kainerugaba, over accusations that he masterminded the torture of novelist Kakwenza Rukirabashaija.
Ms Wangadya made the remarks while appearing before Parliament’s Human Rights Committee to respond to concerns raised by citizens about the rampant cases of torture and missing persons all attributed to security forces. The latest case which was widely publicized involved a novelist Rukiabashaija Kakwenza who claims he was tortured by the army in dungeons managed by the Special Forces Command (SFC) and under the instructions of Gen Muhoozi.
“We don’t have jurisdiction in this case; other than looking for Kakwenza when he went missing for some days and visiting him in prison in Kitalya, we can’t summon anyone since he filed his case in the east African Court of Justice. The constitution is very clear, the Commission can’t inquire into any matter that is in court,” said Wangadya.
The Commission’s response was in relation to a question posed by Moses Okot Bitek (Kioga County) who asked why the commission which has the mandate to investigate torture cases have not summoned Gen Muhoozi.
Recently the media was awash with reports relating to gross Human Rights violations involving Kakwenza and a one Samuel Masereka. In Kakwenza’s case, the name of Gen Muhoozi who happens to be the First son was mentioned.
“have you ever summoned him (Gen Muhoozi) before the Commission, do you have a plan to summon him before the Commission?” Hon Okot querried.
However, his question sent murmurs within the Committee prompting the Chairperson Hon Fox Odoi to ask Okot the motive behind his question.
“Don’t you think that is a very unfair question? Your question presupposes that they have any complaints against the person you have just mentioned, the first son,” asked Odoi.
The Uganda Human Rights Commission (UHRC) was established under the 1995 Constitution of the Republic of Uganda to promote and protect human rights and freedoms in the country in recognition of Uganda’s violent and turbulent history that had been characterized by arbitrary arrests, detention without trial, torture and brutal repression with impunity on the part of security organs during the pre and post independence era.
Article 52 (1) of the 1995 Constitution spells out the functions of the Commission as to investigate, at its own initiative or on a complaint made by any person or group of persons against the violation of any human right, to visit jails, prisons, and places of detention or related facilities with a view of assessing and inspecting conditions of the inmates and make recommendations.
According to Ms Wangadya, Both Kakwenza and Masereka did not present a complain to the commission on the alleged cases of torture and in such cases, the commission is constrained to do much to help the victim(s).