parliament
OpEd

Illegal arrests by security operatives must stop

ISO boss Frank Bagyenda. Security operatives have been engaged in illegal raid and arrests/detentions (FILE PHOTO)

By Peter Mukasa

KAMPALA – I have noted with concern a statement from MTN Uganda Limited dated 9th July 2018 detailing the kidnap of two staff working with its contractor; Huawei. The kidnapped staff were forced to provide unlawful access to the MTN data center in Mutundwe. The statement mentioned that the men who executed this illegal assignment were “heavily armed.” MTN also made clear that they consider these men who they confirm were from ISO and CMI, as criminals.

I have has also noted with concern, statements made by the Director General of ISO, Retired Col. Kaka Bagyenda, confirming the unfortunate attack on the MTN data center carried out by ISO operatives. It is very chilling to hear the Director General of ISO proudly associating himself with such illegalities in a press conference.

The need for any government agency to gain access to any property or information from the public using “heavily armed men” is uncalled for, considering that the same could have been accessed lawfully. The era of accessing information at gun point is long past. The NRM Government has prided itself on its ability to ensure that security agencies do not misuse the gun or turn the gun against the people. Accessing the MTN data center with no court order but instead using guns is most unacceptable. Remembering our history, ISO should avoid the behavior and conduct of the former State Research Bureau.

I also note, with grave concern over the long illegal detention of Mr. Birungi Simpson aka Movit by ISO, contrary to the express orders of the High Court. The fact that ISO seemingly operates above the law, the constitution, and the courts is a deeply worrying trend that needs to be resolved quickly.

At a press conference dated 9th July 2018, the DG ISO Col Frank Bagyenda “paraded” some “suspects” who confessed to working with Dr. Kizza Besigye and Gen. Kale Kayihura to cause unrest in the city. I, and many others, oppose the practice of parading suspects because the exercise is of no legal value and erodes the presumption of innocence.

I guide that under 5.4 (2) of the Security Organisations Act, ISO has no legal mandate to arrest and detain any person. The power to arrest and detain is a preserve of the Uganda Police Force and in some instances, the military through CMI, which can arrest and detain people who are subject to Military Law. ISO is neither a department of the Army nor a unit of the police.

Further, any person arrested can only be detained in a gazetted detention facility and suspects must, within forty-eight hours, be transferred to the jurisdiction of the criminal court to be charged, or released.

Under S.11 of the Security Organisations Act, it is a crime for an employee of ISO, including the Director General to “detain or confine any person” and thus, the behavior of arrest and detention by ISO operatives is not only illegal but amounts to “behavior prejudicial to a security organization” and attracts a prison term of ten (10) years. ISO should not act with impunity and should be accountable to the people.

I therefore request that:

1) The Government should not only denounce the attack on MTN and the illegal arrest of citizens, but should also decisively deal with the particular individuals who broke the law in the arrest/kidnap of MTN employees and illegally accessed MTN’s data center.

2) The Government should assure the general public and investors in this country that such lawless acts by ISO and indeed any other security organs will not be repeated.

3) The leadership of ISO should explain why and where it is currently illegally and contemptuously holding the paraded suspects in the face of clear provisions of the law.

4) The DPP should immediately investigate and prosecute these transgressions of the law. If DPP is unwilling or unable to call the individuals in this case to book, I request that private prosecutions against the individuals concerned be started. This is because it is contrary to S.244 of the Penal Code Act Cap 120, wrongfully concealing an abducted person contrary to S.247 of the Penal Code Act, Wrongful confinement contrary to S.248 of the Penal Code Act, Attempted Robbery contrary to S.287 of the Penal Code Act Cap 120 and Criminal Trespass contrary to S.302 of the Penal Code Act Cap 120.

DG ISO and Head of CMI have acted very unsuitably in their positions by sanctioning such arrests, kidnaps, and parades. Especially in such a short time of holding these positions. There has been no reason to act rashly, especially when the public prefers relevant updates in regards to the many crimes and significant high-profile assassinations. We have still not heard anything regarding Hon. Abiriga’s murder, and when Kaka Bagyenda held a press conference, it was about Kifeesi, not Abiriga. That was very unsettling to me.

If ISO and CMI, and the rest of Uganda’s security apparatus are not focusing and acting appropriately, and the MPs are getting tougher security to protect themselves, what about the rest of us? Where is our security?

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Mr. Peter Mukasa is a social commentator.

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