‘Two mengo suspects ill’

By Vision Reporter

Two of the detained Mengo officials are ill and need urgent medical attention, Margaret Sekaggya, the chairperson of the Uganda Human Rights Commission (UHRC), said yesterday.

By Vision Reporters

Two of the detained Mengo officials are ill and need urgent medical attention, Margaret Sekaggya, the chairperson of the Uganda Human Rights Commission (UHRC), said yesterday.

Meeting the Speaker of Parliament yesterday morning, Sekaggya stated that her team in western Uganda had visited the three officials.

“As a commission, we are mandated by the Constitution to inspect detention centres so we visited the Mengo officials and two of the suspects are not well. They urgently need to get a doctor.”

She did not name the sick officials or the nature of their ailments. But Kampala Central MP Erias Lukwago said his client, Betty Nambooze, and the kingdom’s deputy information minister, Medard Lubega, were in dire need of treatment.

Sekaggya added that Nambooze, a mother of a one-year-old baby, must be allowed to breastfeed her child.

Another source of the Uganda Human Rights Commission told The New Vision that Buganda’s information minister Peter Mayiga had gone on hunger strike in a Police cell in Kyenjojo, protesting his continued detention.

The officials remained in Police custody yesterday, five days after their arrest, contrary to the constitutional provision of 48 hours.

Police spokesperson Judith Nabakooba, however, said the officials were “not badly off.” Asked about the breach of the 48-hour limit, she said: “It depends on when the investigation officers have finished their inquiries. Once they are done, the suspects will appear in court.”

Police in Kyenjojo also said Mayiga was in good condition and was visited by his wife and relatives. “The wife brought him food and drugs. He is in good condition,” Police boss James Chemutai said.

The three were arrested last Friday on charges of terrorism, inciting violence, promoting sectarianism and attempting to acquire fire-arms.

The New Vision learnt that the Mengo officials were yesterday again moved to other districts. Both Nambooze and Mayiga were in Bundibugyo district where they were interrogated in the office of the District Internal Security Officer.

Lubega was sighted in Kibaale district where he was taken to a number of undisclosed locations. He was later returned to the Police station in Kagadi town, Kibaale district.

“It is apparent that they are illegally detained beyond the mandated 48 hours and therefore they should either be charged in the courts of law or be released on Police bond,” Sekaggya said while launching the commission’s annual report yesterday.

Sekaggya also regretted the constant shifting of the suspects and subjecting them to identification parades, which she said has left them psychologically tortured and traumatised. She recommended that they be kept in one gazetted area, be allowed medical attention and access by their relatives.

As she was meeting the Speaker, defence minister Crispus Kiyonga was facing a barrage of questions from MPs over the arrests.

Latif Ssebagala (DP) and Theodore Ssekikubo (NRM) demanded the whereabouts of the suspects and when they would be produced in court.

Kiyonga appealed for calm and time for the Government to conclude the investigations. “Very soon they will be produced in court. They are safe and every time new progress takes place.”

Meanwhile, Lukwago yesterday filed an application in court demanding the unconditional release of the suspects.

“The state has no choice but to produce the applicants in court since the 48 hours have elapsed without charges preferred against them,” Lukwago told Buganda Road Court magistrate Olive Mukwaya. He argued that their continued detention was unconstitutional and illegal.

But state attorneys James Odumbi and Kate Basuuta opposed the application on grounds that the Director of Public Prosecution had just been notified about the application.

“The DPP was served an hour ago. We have not been able to consult the Inspector General of Police to find out whether these people are in Police custody. The DPP does not even have the Police file,” Odumbi said. His statement sparked an uproar in court.

Magistrate Kazaarwe ruled that the DPP be given time until today to consult with the Police boss.

The detention of the officials drew condemnation from human rights bodies. The Foundation for Human Rights Initiative called it a “breach of individual liberties” and “a travesty of justice.”

The Uganda Journalists Association expressed concern over the strained relations between the kingdom and the Central Government, leading to the arrests of the officials, among them Nambooze, a journalist.

(Josephine Maseruka, Steven Candia, Emmanuel Kajubu, Charles Ariko, Edward Anyoli, Madinah Tebajjukira, Ismael Kasooha and John Nzinjah)

‘Two mengo suspects ill’