By Andrew Irumba
Gen. Elly Tumwine, the minister for security, has rejected proposed plans by Members of Parliament to visit torture chamber in Uganda, infamously known as Safe Houses.
Last week, the Speaker of Parliament, Rebecca Kadaga directed the Human Rights Committee to investigate reports of the presence of Safe Houses in Lwamayuba in Kalangala and Kyengera in Wakiso district.
This morning, legislators Robert Kyagulanyi, Latiff Ssebagala and Francis Zaake appeared before the Parliament Committee on Human Rights, where they submitted a list of Ugandans alleegdly held in these Safe Houses.
Following the proceedings from the session, the Committee resolved that the only way to prove whether these Safe Houses exist or not is to visit places where they are alleged to be.
But when consulted about the matter, Gen. Tumwine told the Committee that they cannot visit Safe Houses in the country for security reasons.
Tumwine said this when he appeared before the committee chaired by Janepher Nantume Egunyu, to answer allegations of torture in safe houses.
During the heated meeting, Gen Tumwine and the MPs disagreed on the Committee’s terms of reference, which require them to visit and ascertain the status of Safe Houses in the country.
Gen. Tumwine also requested for more time to respond to all the questions regarding Safe Houses.
The Committee tasked Tumwine to avail them with details on the number of Safe Houses, under which laws they have been set up, how people are taken to Safe Houses, categories of people detained and whether there is torture in safe orders among others.
But Gen. Tumwine told the MPs that for security reasons, there are areas where the Committee is not allowed to visit, like the Safe Houses.
Tumwine also told the house that the constitution supersedes the role of MPs, a statement which angered the MPs.
However Latiff Ssebagala, the Kawempe North MP said that the Committee on Human Rights is investigating torture and therefore they can’t be stopped from visiting safe houses.
Nantume asked the Minister to make it clear if the committee cannot visit safe houses, yet they are supposed to monitor Government compliance to human rights requirements.
Kyadondo East MP Robert Kyagulanyi Ssentamu said the Minister was failing to cooperate with the committee and was being unapologetic of the fact that several Ugandans are being mistreated and held incommunicado. He pointed out the fact that the minister doesn’t deny then existence of Safe Houses, but is trying to assure MPs that even if they are there, they are not allowed to visit them.