Members of Parliament sitting on the Human Rights Committee have Thursday asked the Uganda People’s Defence Force (UPDF) to produce a list of detained National Unity Party (NUP) supporters who have been presented before the Court Martial.
The detained ‘Bobi Wine supporters’ were arrested during the course of the campaigns, the January 14th elections and the post election period.
Responding to the query, however, UPDF Spokesperson Brig. Flavia Byekwaso requested the committee to allow them some time to make a comprehensive list indicating how many have been arraigned and otherwise.
“The people we have are 177 and that was the list that was presented to Parliament through the Minister. We are saying that there is a chance to have a categorized list because between then and now, certain things have changed,” Byekwaso disclosed.
“But if you had asked that we come with all those categories of numbers, we would have come with them. If, for example, you demand that we bring it in the afternoon, we are going to do that because we have nothing to hide,” she requested.
Byekwaso was responding to Kawempe North Member of Parliament (MP) Hajj Latif Ssebagala’s query on the number of civilians presented before court martial and the charges against them.
“As a way of assisting us and also moving together as a team, just let us know how many civilians have been presented to court martial and for what reasons,” Ssebagala posed.
UPDF Chief of Legal Services Brig. Gen. Gordard Busingye attributed the continued trial of NUP supporters in the Military Courts to clauses in the UPDF Act of 2005.
“We follow the UPDF Act Number 7 of 2005 and in particular Section 119 which gives circumstances under which a person not subject to military law becomes subject to military law,” Busingye explained.
“Briefly, when that person aids or abets the committing of an offence under the UPDF Act or is found in possession of items or stores under the monopoly of the armed forces, once such a person is arrested, there is an option of taking him or her to court,” he added.
The Committee head and Bugiri Woman MP Agnes Wejuli Taaka, gave UPDF up to the end of today, Thursday, to submit this list.
“We want UPDF to submit a list of civilians who are in the court martial and the charges that are being preferred against them to this committee. Gen Flavia has said that they will submit a list by today afternoon. Are we on the same page?” Taaka ordered.
Journalists under detention
During the hearing, MPs also learnt that two journalists, namely; Richard Kalema and Musa Mulimira who were arrested during NUP President Robert Kyagulanyi Sentamu’s campaigns in Kalangala on December 30, 2020, are languishing in jail.
Army Representative Brig. Gen. Felix Kulayigye, however, told MPs that these members of the fourth estate were taken into custody after they failed to identify themselves.
“They were not identified as journalists otherwise they wouldn’t have been arrested. Hon. Chair, what you are speaking is factual and as we are speaking today, they are detained in Kitalya here in Mityana. It’s not true that their whereabouts are not known,” Kulayigye assured.
Concerning other journalists who were battered before, during and after the polls, Brig. Byekwaso retorted that UPDF has made amends and continues to facilitate the treatment of Reuters Photographer James Akena.
It is understood that Akena was clobbered on August 20, 2019 as he covered protests that followed Kyagulanyi’s arrest during the chaotic Arua By-Elections.
Byekwaso added that UPDF has planned a series of engagements where related issues will be ironed out.
Meanwhile, Brig. Kulayigye absolved Lt. Col. Napoleon Namanya of battering journalists at the United Nations Commission for Human Rights’ (UNCHR) office in Kololo on February 17, 2021, saying the burden of proof lies with journalists.
“I said Napoleon was not in command at Kololo and said, if someone is being accused, the burden of proof lies with the accuser and if there is proof that Napoleon was at the scene and was involved in the beating of Journalists, he will be prosecuted,” he pointed out.