Legislators on the Human Rights Committee are holding the Uganda Human Rights Commission accountable over alleged inhumane arrests, torture and detention.
The legislators claim that whereas the Constitution gives the Commission sweeping powers to bring rights violators to account, the officials are ‘sleeping on the job’.
“I think the Commission is abetting crime and we must hold them accountable; you [UHRC] are paid by government to execute a certain duty,” said MP Raphael Magyezi (NRM, Igara West).
It all started with the botched attempt by MPs to visit safe houses, where alleged human rights violations take place.
The army thwarted attempts by legislators to inspect a number of facilities claimed to be the infamous safe houses, forcing the legislators to turn their guns on the Commission, which they said should have been inspecting the safe houses.
“You are not seen…we would not be doing this if you were working,” said Committee Chairperson, Hon Janepher Egunyu.
MP Robert Kyagulanyi (IND, Kyaddondo East) said he has filed several complaints to the Commission but has not been invited for a hearing.
“I have filed three complaints and I have never been invited for any hearing; I express my disappointment with the Uganda Human Rights Commission…you have let Ugandans down and you should be ashamed of yourselves,” said Kyagulanyi.
UHRC Chairperson, Medi Kaggwa, however, took strong exceptions to the allegations.
“I don’t accept that this Commission has failed…we are the best in Africa and we have been accredited by a Committee in Geneva for exemplarity,” said Kaggwa.
On claims that UHRC serves partisan interests, Kaggwa said the remarks have no basis.
“We are completely independent and I can say without any fear of contradiction that nobody has ever called me for the time I have been in office,” he said.
“I have an avenue of talking to government as mandated by the Constitution…I cannot be seen to be saying everything in the media; I would have preferred to have met the Committee alone because there is the press and I am under oath,” he added.
Col Kaka a no-show
Meanwhile, the Director General of Internal Security Organisation (ISO), Col Frank Kaka Bagyenda has not appeared before the Committee, despite an earlier schedule.
At the beginning of the meeting, Egunyu said she received communication from Col Bagyenda, whose contents she said would be divulged to Members in camera.
“I have received communication from the Director General of ISO; he is not coming,” said Egunyu.
Last week, Security Minister Gen Elly Tumwine said Col Bagyenda and Maj Gen James Birungi, the commandant of the Special Forces Command, couldn’t appear before the Committee despite being summoned.
Gen Tumwine said his position is based upon undisclosed advice from the office of the Attorney General.
The Committee is investigating claims by MP Latif Ssegabala (IND, Kawempe North) that security agencies operate safe houses where suspects are allegedly tortured.
Gen Tumwine however, dismissed the claims as false.