It was drama on Thursday, February, 24, 2022 as the Chairperson of the Uganda Human Rights Commission, Mrs. Mariam Wagandya appeared before the Parliamentary Committee on Human Rights and failed to present the findings of the commission on torture and arbitrary detention.
This was following the recommendation by the Deputy Speaker of Parliament, Rt. Hon. Anita Among to the Committee on Human Rights on 8th February 2022 when she gave them 45 days to investigate the situation in the country after opposition members of parliament led by the Leader of Opposition – Hon. Matthias Mpuuga walked out of Parliament in protest of the continued violation of rights of Ugandans by some security agencies.
While meeting the Committee, Mrs. Wagandya and her Acting Secretary to the Commission – Ms. Margaret Lucy Ejang were asked by Hon. Francis Mwijukye of Buhweju County to mention any single complaint that they have investigated and made a decision to which they could not state.
Mrs. Wagandya said that she was in fear of her life from non-state agencies as a woman although she has tough skin hence unable to name and shame the cases that were being handled.
Hon. Rose Obiga, the Terengo DWP blamed the commission for playing a hide and seek game by failing to bring cases to an end while hiding behind fear while on the other hand, the Chairperson is always requesting for additional funding but there are no complaints that she can register as having been handled by herself.
She noted that by failing to handle torture cases, then the parliamentary committee on Human Rights will not be meeting their Terms of Reference since the guests are oblivious of their job. T
his was reiterated by Hon. Hanifa Nabukeera, the Woman Representative of Mukono District who tasked the Commission to present their findings from any investigations they could have done on safe houses that are said to be used by perpetrators of torture and arbitrary arrests.
In an interview with a staff who preferred to remain anonymous for fear of reprisal, he stated that he was shocked to see that the Commission representatives led by Chairperson Wagadya failed to mention that almost 40 cases that had been concluded this month of February and are awaiting compensation by the office of the attorney general since tribunals began this month. These cases have been handled by only two commissioners – Commissioners Shifrah Lukwango and Hon. Jacklet Atuhaire, yet we have four commissioners in total available for allocation of tribunal sessions across the country.
According to the UHRC Legal Directorate, the few cases completed in February account for almost half of the estimated complaints per quarter and this could have justified the need for budget increase to members of the Human Rights Committee as well as the general public.
Members of Parliament where left in shock indeed that the Chairperson was seeking for more funding yet with the little that has been availed to the commission is not being used most importantly to reduce on the backlog of cases by deploying all the members of the commission equally. They were further awed by the commission laying blame on the media for exposing the numerous cases of torture.
Hon. James Baba Didi, the MP Koboko South County and former Minister of State for Internal Affairs expressed the committee’s surprise about the misinformation by the Commission Chairperson whereby torture cases are visible to everyone’s eye as victims have constantly been brought to courts of law with wounds.
This forced the Members of Human Rights committee to give the UHRC Commission Chairperson only 10 days during which, the must present their investigations report in details or else resign if she cannot perform the functions under which UHRC was formed in accordance with Article 52 (1) (a) that mandates the commission to “investigate, at its own initiative or on a complaint made by any person or group of persons against the violation of any human rights” & Article 52 (2) which requires the commission to “publish periodical reports and submit annual reports to Parliament on the state of human rights and freedoms in the country”
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