Muslim Lawyers Condemn Torture of Katumba Wamala's Shooting Suspects

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The Acting President Uganda Muslim Lawyers Association, Isaac Kafeero, says in a statement that they are surprised that the sanctity of the rule of law being eroded by the organs of the state-mandated under the law to enforce and uphold the same.
One of the accused persons showing media how he was allegedly tortured in state custody.
Uganda Muslim Lawyers Association-UMLA has condemned the torture and rights violations against five suspects accused of participating in the botched assassination of former Chief of Defense Forces-CDF General Katumba Wamala, which led to the death of his daughter and driver.

The suspects are Muhammad Kagugube alias Musiramu alias Mugisha, Kamada Walusimbi alias Mudinka, Siriman Ayuub Kisambira alias Mukwasi Koja, Abdulaziz Ramathan Dunku and Habib Ramanthan Marjan. The five appeared before Nakawa Chief Magistrate’s Court on July on July 8, 2021, on two counts of murder, three counts of attempted murder as well as terrorism.  

They are currently on remand in Kitalya Government prison. The prosecution told the court that the accused persons together with others still at large caused the unlawful death of Brendah Nantongo Katumba and Haruna Kayondo by shooting on June 1 2021 along Kisota Road in Kisaasi in Nakawa Division of Kampala District.

The prosecution also told the court that on the same day, the accused attempted to murder Gen. Katumba Wamala who escaped with gunshot wounds and is still recovering. They also allegedly attempted to kill Katumba’s bodyguard sergeant Khaled Kuboit and shot a bystander, Boniface Mucunguzi in the leg at the scene of crime.    

The suspects appeared in court with severe wounds on their bodies resulting from the torture by security, according to their lawyer, Geoffrey Turyamusiima. Some of the suspects accused security operatives of pricking them with needles, nails and other sharp objects. Some of the suspects undressed in the court, saying they had been burnt with flat irons and assaulted with electric cables.     

Now, the Acting President Uganda Muslim Lawyers Association, Isaac Kafeero, says in a statement that they are surprised that the sanctity of the rule of law being eroded by the organs of the state-mandated under the law to enforce and uphold the same.     

Kafeero notes that Uganda as a country has ratified a number of domestic and international laws including the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, Anti Torture Act and the Constitution aimed at prohibiting torture.

"Uganda's Anti Torture Act of 2012 prohibits intentionally causing pain to anyone to obtain information or confession. Despite all these instruments, torture remains a tool employed by state agencies to coerce suspects into confessions,” reads the statement in part.  Adding that, “suspects are beaten with rifle butts, sticks, electric cables and other objects. These suspects were kept incommunicado, unable to contact relatives or legal counsel.”

He says, "with the growing insecurity due to murders and kidnappings, the government ought to restrain security agencies from regressing to the dark days, because people may lose trust and withdraw cooperation with such institutions; thereby withholding relevant information, if they continue to act with impunity”.  

He also condemned the language used by the Deputy Inspector General of Police, Major General Paul Lokech during a media briefing on the update of the investigations and claimed that all "Those who have been involved in the assassinations are all in the Allied Democratic Forces Fraternity. You can never join that organization if you are not a Muslim. If you are a Christian, they will convert you to Islam”.  

According to the Muslim lawyers, the statements by Lokech are "quite reckless, unfortunate and border on an inherent islamophobia mentality and further inflame the situation as they give leverage to security forces to pounce and violate people's rights anyhow, at will in complete disregard of the presumption of innocence".  

The Muslim lawyers indicate that they intend to file an application calling for investigations into the circumstances under, which some of the suspects met their death. On Monday, the government revealed that security gunned down four out of the eight suspects during the operation to arrest them.

The lawyers have cautioned the government to desist from what they describe as systematic abuse of legal processes. “It can lead to a situation where people decide to go native and engage in extra-legal means to defend their inherent rights. The birth of extremism, radicalism and violence which has bedevilled many once good nation-states come from a backdrop of relentless violent abuse from the establishments, with no checks and balances.”

The Muslim lawyers want the government to take disciplinary action against the perpetrators of human rights and abuses, warning that government is likely to lose public trust and goodwill. The lawyers, who have also faulted the court for denying the accused person’s plea to access proper medical treatment in hospital, want the torture victims as well as their families rehabilitated.       

According to the Prevention and Prohibition of Torture Act of 2012, any evidence obtained from suspects through torture inadmissible in court. Previously, a group of suspects charged with the murder of the former Police Spokesperson, Andrew Felix Kaweesi got an award of Shillings 80 million each for the torture occasioned against them by government operatives.

Many legal experts have since explained that once the suspect’s torture is confirmed, the state cannot try them on the charges slapped against them. Uganda Muslim lawyers Association joins Uganda Law Society, which has since condemned the torture and called for the arrest and prosecution of the perpetrators.