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Safe Houses not unique to Uganda! Security Minister Tumwine dismisses concerns over human rights abuses

Inspector-General of Police Martin Okoth Ochola, Security Minister, Gen Elly Tumwine and Deputy IGP Sabiiti Muzeeyi respectively. (PHOTO/Courtesy)

KAMPALA – The Security Minister, Gen Elly Tumwine has on August 20, assured human rights activists to come to terms with the existence of safe houses saying all other global governments operate safe houses confirming that Uganda is not an exception.

Gen Tumwine made the remarks on Tuesday 20 in his statement while responding to complaints from MPs that Ugandans are being arrested and tortured in safe houses.

“I wish to mention that a safe house is a secure place used for intelligence work; all intelligence and security agencies world over operate safe houses. Therefore running safe houses is not peculiar to Uganda but it is a worldwide intelligence practice,” said Gen Tumwine.

Gen Tumwine’s statement was in response to concerns raised by lawmakers over allegations that Ugandans are being arrested and detained in unknown locations in total breach of their rights to lawyers and families.

The lawmakers included Latif Ssebaggala and Theodore Sekikubo who asked Government to explain the continued illegal arrest and detentions of Ugandans in “Safe Houses” without trial with allegations pointing to Internal Security Organisation (ISO) accused of operating safe houses in Kyengera in Wakiso and Kalangala.

Ssekikubo demanded responses on arrest of Oprah Phoebe Kiddu, a member of NRM for Justice as well as City Advocate, Patrick Machika Mugisha, with Government only admitting to arresting Mugisha but denied knowledge of Kiddu.

Gen Tumwine denied allegations that ISO bosses are directly involved in the torture of Mugisha, rather blaming it on over zelous police officers who moved to swiftly arrest Mugisha saying.

“It is not true that the Director-General of Internal Security Organisation was directly involved in the arrest, torture and detention of advocate Patrick Machika Mugisha and Oprah Phoebe Kiddu,” he stated.

Gen Tumwine defended the existence of safe houses arguing they are critical in helping the intelligence community in coordinating clandestine intelligence operations, debrief and re-brief intelligence assets, secure and protect witnesses in danger especially criminals who have turned into witnesses as well as secure persons who come seeking to be protected by the state for various security reasons.

He also said State uses Safe Houses 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 development comes at a time when Government was forced to close down the Nalufenya detention facility after allegations of torture inflicted on suspects.

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