The MPs raised the concerns while appearing before the Masaka Grade One Magistrate Christine Nantege via video conference this afternoon, to receive updates on the progress of investigations into charges of murder and terrorism that were levied against them.
of Parliament Allan Ssewanyana and Muhammad Ssegirinya are protesting a ban on visitors to Kigo Prison where they have been incarcerated for the last five months.
The MPs raised the
concerns while appearing before the
Masaka Grade One Magistrate Christine Nantege via video conference this afternoon, to receive updates on the progress of investigations into charges of murder and
terrorism that were levied against them.
The MPs argue that the directive which was issued by the Commissioner-General of
Prisons is leading to serious violations of their inherent human rights. They said that the ban on visitors which was issued under the guise of preventing the spread
of COVID-19 to the prisons has instead become a tool of torture and violation
of rights for a few targeted inmates.
Ssewanyana told the
court that a ban on visitors is not uniformly observed to all inmates, hence
not being in a position to eliminate risks of COVID-19 spread in the prison. He reported that on a
daily basis, over 200 inmates leave Kigo Prison to work in the
community and return in the evening, but to their disappointment, the prison
authorities are still using the same directive to deny them access to visitors including lawyers, private doctors, and close relatives.
Ssewanyana told the court
that besides enduring degrading treatment that includes being forced to
sit in the mud every morning, they are also completely detached from their
families, something that is psychologically distressing them.
Similarly, MP Muhammad Ssegirinya
told the court that the ban has also attracted rage from
fellow inmates who are now perceiving them as the cause of their
suffering. He added that as a result,
his children have not returned to school because he has nobody to
give instructions for paying their fees and preparing them to return to school.
appealed to the court to compel the prison authorities to lift the restrictions.
//Cue in; “ate tubadde
Cue out…Nze ali mu
Malende, the lawyer to the duo also told the court that she has equally been denied
access to the prisons facility, which is frustrating efforts to prepare defence
documents that required her to first interview the suspects about the charges
preferred against them.
She expressed concern
that if not reconsidered, besides causing emotional distress to the accused
persons, the restrictions will also frustrate their pursuit for justice.
Masaka Resident Chief State Attorney Richard Birivumbuka said that he has
taken note of the concerns and pledged to engage prison authorities before he can authoritatively brief the court during the next sitting. But in her ruling, the
magistrate instructed the Prisons authorities to relax the restrictions and allow the suspects to access visitors, under the observance of the known COVID-19 standard operating procedures.