By Milton Olupot
DEFENCE minister Dr. Crispus Kiyonga has asked Parliament to amend the law that provides for suspects to be charged before court within 48 hours upon arrest.
He wants the period extended to 90 days.
â€œIn Britain, the law was amended in 2006 to provide for up to 28 days in detention without charges for terrorism suspects,â€ he said on Friday.
Kiyonga told the legal and parliamentary affairs committee that the difficulties in interrogating suspects of serious crimes had rendered it hard to abide by the rule.
The committee, chaired by Stephen Tashobya, is considering the Uganda Human Rights Commission (UNHCR) reports from 1999 to 2008.
The minister, flanked by the commander of land forces, Gen. Katumba Wamala and senior army officers, was invited to answer queries against the UPDF by the human rights body.
He said it was not practical to follow the 48-hour requirement, especially when dealing with terrorism suspects.
Reacting to a question on alleged continued existence of safe houses, Wamala denied that any still existed.
He said all safe houses were closed when terrorism activities reduced.
â€œNow we do not see high level terrorism although there are still threats. If the situation deteriorates, we will reconstitute them,â€ he said.
Wamala said the UHRC and the Red Cross had been granted access to detention centres since 2004.
He, however, said military authorities had to be notified in time.
He dismissed allegations that the army kept some of their detainees at the Kampala Central Police Station.
Wamala also dismissed reports that the army uses crocodiles, ants and snakes to coerce information from suspects during interrogation.
Wamala said 160 staff of army special investigations UPDF had received training by the Police and American instructors.
They are reinforced by six lawyers and 12 para legal officers. Wamala said the army had collected 19,279 guns from the Karimojong warriors.
He said the region was no longer experiencing road ambushes and cattle raids.
The officer in charge of the UPDF legal services, Col. Ramathan Kyamulesire, said the prerogative of mercy is extended to army convicts as well.
He said although the army would abide by the recent Constitutional Court ruling on the field court martial, the UPDF was still studying the judgement.