Former Presidential Candidate Dr. Kizza Besigye has today (May 22, 2023) appeared before the Uganda Human Rights Commission (UHRC) Human Rights Tribunal to give evidence in a complaint he filed before it.
He told a panel of three Commissioners chaired by the Chairperson Hon. Mariam Wangadya, that he was repeatedly arrested immediately after the 2016 General Elections which, to him, violated his right to liberty. The other members on the tribunal were; Hon. Shifra Lukwago, Hon. Simeo Nsubuga and Hon. Lamex Omara Apitta.
“On February 19, 2016 I and other party leaders were at our (Forum for Democratic Change) offices where some of the declaration forms from our agents were coming in and we were already becoming suspicious because what was being declared by the Electoral Commission wasn’t tallying with what we were getting from our poling agents. We first had a knock on the door and immediately the then Commander operations AIGP Andrew Felix Kaweesi (now deceased) came in. He asked to know what we were doing and we told him we were holding a meeting. He left briefly and then we started hearing blasts outside our offices. As we were still wondering again AIGP Kaweesi came in with other security personnel and started dragging us out,” he said.
Hon. Wangadya sought clarification on what exactly he meant by “being dragged out.” He clarified that the officers grabbed each of them by their clothes pulling them out of the meeting room towards a waiting omnibus from where they were driven off to Nagalama Police Station. He said at Nagalama, he and colleagues were put in separate cells.
“At around 8:00pm, they came and told us they wanted to take us away but we refused because we didn’t know where they were taking us. As we hesitated we just saw power go off and we were dragged out of the cell into a waiting vehicle. Personally, I was driven to my home,” he said.
He further noted that after that the officers never left his home and whenever he tried to get out, he could be arrested, driven to a police station where they could detain him and later return him at night. He said the occupation of his home violated his right to property since the officers never allowed him to access his garden and littered human waste allover since they had no places of convenience throughout the period they were at his place. This period was from February 19 to March 2016.
During cross-examination by Principal State Attorney Richard Adrole as to whether he was not leading a defiance campaign, Besigye said that there is no way he could lead or participate in the defiance campaign during that time because he was never allowed to go beyond his home. When he was asked about the exact dates when the elections were held and from where exactly he was arrested on February 2022, 2016, Besigye said he couldn’t remember given that these are events that unfolded over seven years ago. Adrole also asked Besigye whether he had any calculations in terms of figures on which the commission can base to compensate him in regard to his economic rights/right to property and he said he didn’t have. He was also asked to tell the Commission which particular police officers he wanted punished given that the then Commander AIGP Kaweesi is already dead. He said he filed a complaint to the commission trusting that it had the capacity to investigate and ascertain which particular officers were on duty during that period. Midway his testimony, his lawyer also Kampala City Lord Mayor Erias Lukwago came in and guided him (Besigye) and his other two witnesses.
His other witness was the then FDC Party President Maj. Gen. Gregory Mugisha Muntu who also affirmed that he was part of the group arrested and taken to Nagalama and was one of the people who were denied access to Besigye’s home during the period complained of.
Besigye’s second witness was Ingrid Turinawe, the then chairperson women’s league, who also confirmed being arrested from the party headquarters and taken to Nagalama police station. All the three confirmed that they were never told any charge at the time of arrest or during their release.
Besigye told Journalists in an interview outside the tribunal that he was surprised to receive summons that his complaint had been fixed for hearing.
“I came to tell this Commission that I have been arrested several times and charged with a number of cases including capital offences of treason, rape, inciting violence among others but in none of all those cases have I been found to have a case to answer and put on my defense. In fact all of them have either been dismissed or withdrawn without court requiring me to respond. The good thing we have a law that calls for individual responsibility in human rights violation so all those officers must be individually held liable. This impunity must be punished,” he said.
Hon. Wangadya explained to the media that the case has overstayed in the system because the Commission has been having challenges of lack of a corum.
“Before I was appointed, this Commission spent two years without a chairperson following the death of my predecessor Hon. Hajji Med Kaggwa so this tribunal couldn’t sit,” she said.
There was also some period between 2016 and 2018, when the Commission had the Chairperson then Hon. Kaggwa, but had no required number of three Commissioners for it to hold tribunal sessions.