On two separate occasions this week the Uganda Human Rights Commission was blocked from conducting on-spot inspections of suspects' cells at the Central Police Station in Kampala.
Aida Nankinga, the Regional Human Rights Officer for Central Uganda, says she and her colleague Stephen Mbarusha were prevented from carrying out their work on the premise that there were suspects at the police station were being held in connection with sensitive cases.
Article 52 of the Constitution grants the Uganda Human Rights Commission the mandate to conduct inspection of detention centers without giving prior notice to the authorities.
Nankinga says that on Monday and Tuesday this week the Commission was blocked from fulfilling this duty by senior officers at CPS. She says the Division Police Commander of CPS, Emmanuel Muhairwe, uncharacteristically refused to grant them access to the cells. He referred them to the Kampala Extra Regional Police Commander Edward Ochom, who claimed there were a number of sensitive suspects in detention.
Nankinga says Ochom instructed them to seek written permission from the Inspector General of Police Kale Kayihura before they could visit the cells. She says the turn of events was irregular and is now being handled by the chairperson of the Uganda Human Rights Commission at a higher level.
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Edward Ochom denies turning the Uganda Human Rights Commission away, saying it is not within his habit to turn away people. He says he will give them access to the cells once they are cleared by the Inspector General of Police.
The attempted visit of the Commission officials to the CPS cells comes after several complaints that suspects were being held at the police station without charge for longer than the stipulated 48 hours.
The Kitgum Woman Member of Parliament, Beatrice Anywar, who was held at CPS for two nights a week ago, told Uganda Radio Network that she met a Congolese and a Rwandan national who had spent six months in the cells without being taken to court.
But the Regional Police Commander, Kampala Region, Edward Ochom denied turning away the commission staff. He admitted meeting them and having a discussion with them but said it is not his habit to turn away people.
Ochom said he will give them the permission once they are cleared by Kayihura.