Parliament discovers shocking details at ISO safe houses in Kyengera and Kalangala

The Speaker of Parliament, Rebecca Kadaga, directed the House’s human rights committee to investigate allegations of torture in two safe houses in Kyengera and Kalangala.

A safe house is a term that has been coined to denote an ungazetted place of detention where torture and other illegal means of extracting confessions from suspects allegedly take place.

Kadaga’s directive yesterday followed a submission by MPs Latif Sebaggala (Kawempe Division North) and Kassiano Wadri (Arua Municipality) to the effect that security agencies are torturing many Ugandans in the aforesaid two places.

In particular, Sebaggala told the House that the Internal Security Organisation (ISO) had devised ways of taking its activities away from prying eyes of the public by opening a new safe house at Lwamayuba, on Kalangala Island.

“The new Nalufenya is at Lwamayuba. Hundreds of Ugandans have been secretly taken by boats to this new safe house being run by ISO. Those who are tortured to death are simply thrown into the lake,” Sebaggala said.

Torture. Victims say the beating begin almost immediately on arrival at the facility. Illustrations by DANIEL BARONGO

The House heard that Paddy Sserunjogi, commonly known as Sobi, the former leader of Kifeesi, had been allegedly hired by ISO to torture people at Lwamayuba. Kifeesi is a shadowy criminal gang that terrorized people in Kampala and its environs three years ago.

Wadri also told the House of the alleged abduction, detention, and torture of a lady known to him. The lady in question, according to Wadri, has suffered a miscarriage because of her ordeal in the Kyengera safe house.

Wadri alleged that among those that had been transferred to Lwamayuba after a year at Kyengera is a one Patrick Kidega.

“If these people have any case to answer, let them be arraigned in courts of law. If not, we demand their unconditional release,”

Wadri said.

At the time the two lawmakers made the allegations, neither the defense minister nor that of internal affairs were in the House.

“I direct that the committee on human rights proceed to the two places to ascertain the allegations of torture,”

Kadaga said.

She also directed the internal affairs minister to give the House a report on the allegations on Tuesday next week. However, it remains to be seen whether the human rights committee will be allowed to access the two alleged ungazetted places of detention if they exist.

The last time the House’s human rights committee investigated allegations of torture was in May 2017, when reports of horrendous torture at Nalufenya Police Station became a major news staple. The detention facility was later closed after the allegations were substantiated.

Uganda’s Constitution bars torture and other inhuman and degrading treatment. Under the Human Rights Enforcement Act, once incidents of torture are proved, the trial is invalidated and the suspect is entitled to be set free