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Uganda's Safe Houses are Not Torture Chambers- Tumwine

The affirmation follows a heated debate from which the Speaker of Parliament, Rebecca Kadaga directed the Human Rights Committee to investigate reports on the presence of Safe Houses in Lwamayuba in Kalangala and Kyengera in Wakiso district. The reports indicate that the safe houses are often used to torture suspects.
Nalufenya police entrance
The Minister of Security Gen. Elly Tumwine has reiterated that safe houses, wherever they exist in Uganda, are only used for intelligence work and not detention and torture of suspects.

The affirmation follows a heated debate from which the Speaker of Parliament, Rebecca Kadaga directed the Human Rights Committee to investigate reports on the presence of Safe Houses in Lwamayuba in Kalangala and Kyengera in Wakiso district. The reports indicate that the safe houses are often used to torture suspects. 

Kawempe North MP Latif Ssebaggala and his counterpart Kassiano Wadri of Arua Municipality stirred the debate with narrations of horrendous acts of torture taking place in ungazetted places across the country. 

But in a statement dated August 15, the Minister of Security Gen Elly Tumwine emphasized that running safe houses is not peculiar to Uganda but a worldwide intelligence practice which should not be alarming to anyone. He said that safe houses are secure places for intelligence work. 

He says the safe houses are designed to provide space for the country to coordinate covert intelligence operations, debrief and re-brief intelligence assets, as well as to secure and protect witnesses in danger especially criminals who have turned into witnesses. 

 “To secure persons who come seeking to be protected by the state for various security reasons. To manage hard-core criminals who require a long time to reform especially those who have rescinded to criminality after serving long prison sentences and now need observation and surveillance,” The statement reads. 

The debate on Safe houses was in response to a concern raised earlier on by the Lwemiyaga County MP Theodore Ssekikubo indicating intentions by Uganda law society to sue the Director-General of Internal security organization (ISO) Frank Kaka Bagyenda for breaching provisions of the Security Organizations Act, by illegally detaining suspects in safe houses. 

He pointed out the alleged arrest, torture and detention of Oprah Phoebe Kiddu, a member of NRM for Justice, a youthful political pressure group, attached to the ruling NRM –party and the alleged kidnap, detention and torture of city lawyer Patrick Machika Mugisha.  

Tumwine says that the said Kiddu is unknown to them and has never been in their custody.  He, however, adds that for the case of Advocate Patrick Machika Mugisha, there had been a complaint from one Samuel Muwanguzi Mukasa also known as "Biyinzika" who was allegedly defrauded of 50 million Shillings by a group of people including lawyers.

Tumwine says that the police had for a long time failed to make headway on the case until their officers were assigned to track those involved and, have them prosecuted.  Tumwine says that unfortunately their officer became overzealous and moved on to arrest Mugisha and one James N. Muliika and put them in a Safe House. 

He says however that when this matter was brought to the attention of the Director-General, he immediately ordered for their release and subsequently issued an apology for the mishap.  However, he adds, investigations into the matter are still ongoing.  

Tumwine’s explanation resonates with to one given seven years ago by then Security Minister Wilson Muruli Mukasa that the houses are a sanctuary for informants. According to Muruuli, Uganda’s safe houses are secure, in a good environment and well-furnished for anyone who wants to give any kind of security information.

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