Members of Parliament on the Human Rights Committee plan to investigate reports of grave human rights violations at all government detention institutions.
The committee’s chairperson, Fox Odoi Oywelowo, told Uganda Prisons Service authorities of the committee’s intention to tour prison centers around the country on Thursday, February 24, 2022.
The committee met with officials from the Prisons Service, led by Samuel Akena, Director of Correctional Services, who represented the Commissioner General of Prisons.
“I’d want to utilize this meeting to inform you that this committee will visit all detention facilities to communicate with inmates and determine whether or not they have been tortured by prison authorities or other security forces outside the jails,” Fox Odoi remarked.
This came after Akena told the committee that the Prisons Department has not recorded any incidences of torture since January 2020, shocking MPs who wondered if the charges of inmate torture were self-inflicted.
However, while there are occasions where detainees are brought to prison in ill conditions, Akena admitted that it is within their jurisdiction to investigate what happened to them.
“Our mission is to ensure that those who are taken to prison are kept safe. Our mission is to treat and care for those who come to us with medical problems; it is not our responsibility to investigate what occurred to them.”
According to Akena, they have a zero-tolerance policy for inmate abuse, and any staff or prisoner who is involved in acts of torture is immediately handed over to the police for prosecution. He also disputed that prison officials torture inmates.
“It’s true that since January 2020, we haven’t had a single case of torture.” We have, however, had disciplinary cases involving violations of inmates’ rights, and the perpetrators have been brought to justice.
The Koboko County MP, James Baba Boliba, accused the prison authorities for turning a blind eye to charges of torture on convicts, claiming that it is within their ability to obtain additional information on what occurred to the inmates prior to their arrival.
“When you receive these people, you are expected to document their condition and, if they have been tortured, you are supposed to figure out what happened to them,” Baba explained.
Even if the detainees were not mistreated by prison warders, according to Fox Odoi, it is still the obligation of the prison administration to investigate cases of torture.
Before the next scheduled meeting, he instructed Akena to provide the committee with a list of purportedly tortured prisoners.
Anita Among, the Deputy Speaker, asked the Committee on Human Rights to investigate claims of security personnel torturing inmates on February 8, 2022.