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Safe Houses: Tumwine Sets Conditions for ISO Director Appearance

The Minister of Security Gen. Elly Tumwine has set conditions for Parliament’s Human Rights Committee if the Director General Internal Security Organization (ISO) must appear to give information concerning alleged torture in safe houses.
Security Minister Gen. Elly Tumwine arriving at Parliament recently.

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The Minister of Security Gen. Elly Tumwine has set conditions for Parliament’s Human Rights Committee if the Director-General Internal Security Organization (ISO) must appear to give information concerning alleged torture in safe houses.

Tumwine was this afternoon appearing before the Committee Chaired by Buvuma Woman MP Janepher Nantume Egunyu.

The Committee was in October tasked by Speaker of Parliament Rebecca Kadaga to investigate torture allegations in safe houses raised on the floor of parliament by Arua Municipality MP Kassiano Wadri and Kawempe North MP Latif Ssebaggala. The two MPs raised specific queries with an alleged safe house in Kyengera and Lwamayuba on Kalangala Island.

While before the Committee, Tumwine tasked MPs to be specific on the information they need from the Director General Internal Security Organization Col. Kaka Bagyenda and the Special Forces Commander (SFC) Maj. Gen. James Birungi before they appear in person due to the sensitivity of the information they hold.

The Minister said that intelligence information as per the Security Organizations Act must be protected and that the Committee needs to put its queries in writing so that the officers prepare accordingly to avoid infringing on the law.

Section 10 of the Security Organizations Act restricts disclosure of information relating to their duties, intelligence information, and secrets of either the organization. The offense carries a death sentence on conviction.

Tumwine’s statement followed a query by Kawempe North MP Latif Ssebaggala over the absence of the two army officers who had been asked to appear alongside him in regard to alleged torture in safe houses.

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Tumwine acknowledged that the committee’s letter to him had requested the appearance of the two army officials but noted that the letter lacked specifics required from the officials. He further noted that the two were busy on security matters and that he thought he would ably answer concerns of the committee.

His response was however dismissed by MP Ssebaggala who said that the gist of the committee’s investigation rotates around the operations of ISO and that the committee’s report requires Col. Bagyenda’s response.

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The Committee Chairperson Nantume said that the two officers were expected to answer direct questions from the MPs. Bugiri Woman MP Agnes Taaka emphasized the need for Col. Bagyenda to appear saying that torture witnesses had specifically named him before the committee and that it was only fair for his side of the story to be heard.

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Serere County MP Patrick Okabe also noted that Bagyenda’s appearance before the Committee was importance to aid the report that is to be presented to Parliament.

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Tumwine insisted that if there are specific issues for Col. Kaka to appear and explain, they should be specifically mentioned so that he comes knowing what specific questions he has to answer before the committee.

The Minister’s demand further angered the Committee Vice Chairperson Taaka who said that allegations made against Col. Kaka were clear and they do not need emphasis.

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However, Tumwine said that he does not condone mistakes committed by ISO is any and that if any person is found culpable, they should be dealt with according to the law.

Without divulging information, he noted that from different information received, they are carrying out serious reforms in the sector but cautioned the Committee not to take all statements by claimants as gospel truth.

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