The Leader of the Opposition, Hon. Mathias Mpuuga, has called for unconditional release of prisoners, including supporters of the National Unity Platform, who have been in custody for periods longer than the 48 hours prescribed by the Constitution.
Mpuuga who was presenting a rejoinder to the statement by the Minister of State for Internal Affairs, Gen. David Muhoozi, on alleged human rights abuses and the continued arrests of opposition leaders and supporters, urged government to institute a Commission of inquiry chaired by a Judge of the High Court to investigate the alleged case in which 18 supporters of NUP have been missing for over two years.
“There are dozens of political prisoners languishing in custody on charges that the state has deliberately failed to conclude due to inadequate evidence. Olivia Lutaaya, and dozens of opposition NUP party supporters are still facing off with the court martial despite a 2O21 constitutional court ruling that annulled such trials,” Mpuuga said during the sitting chaired by Speaker, Anita Among, on Tuesday 5 December 2023.
“We believe that the Commission will be endowed with the authority, independence, and resources necessary to uncover the truth, to hold those responsible accountable, and to ensure that justice prevails,” Mpuuga added.
Mpuuga dismissed the statement by Minister Muhoozi arguing that it did not respond to the issues raised by the Opposition and asked Parliament to reject it.
“I must state at the earliest that no response was made to the issues we raised. The Minister's statement was purely a political narrative instead of giving the Country detailed and specific account of the missing persons and remedy for the victims,” he said.
The Opposition also demanded that Parliament sets up a Select Committee to investigate among others, rape, defilement, defilement and unjustified arrests; and the transfer of all persons not subjected to military law, being tried by the court martial to civil courts.
The Minister of Information, Communications Technology and National Guidance, Chris Baryomunsi however said that government will not establish a Commission of Inquiry, since there are existing systems, including the Human Rights Commission.
“Our request is that if leaders of opposition can undertake to help in providing information and if there are other areas of dissatisfaction, the Human Rights Commission and other security agencies will address these,” he said.
In response to the demands by the Opposition, the Deputy Attorney General, Hon. Jackson Kafuuzi promised to have a meeting with the top leadership in the Judiciary to consider cases that have been on remand beyond the 48-hour constitutional requirement.
The meeting will involve the Chief Justice and his Deputy as well as the Principal Judge, Chief Registrar and the Director of Public Prosecution.
“I do understand the concern of the Leader of the Opposition that there are people who have exceeded the mandatory period of remand. We shall work together as Judiciary and see if there are people who have spent a period longer than they should on remand, then they will be released,” he said.
Speaker, Anita Among, pledged to engage the President over the prolonged detention of suspects, and deferred determination on the four Opposition demands until after a meeting she scheduled with the Chairperson of the Uganda Human Rights Commission.
This meeting, which will also involve the Deputy Speaker, Thomas Tayebwa and the Leader of the Opposition, is scheduled for Monday.
Mpuuga however cast doubt on the capability of the Uganda Human Rights Commission to address the case of the missing people.
“This Commission is so disabled in the circumstances to deal with this matter. It is conflicted and the Chairperson is partisan. I have, with my team gone out of our way to establish how the Commission worked,” said Mpuuga.