The relatives of 18 missing supporters of the National Unity Platform have stormed the High Court Civil Division in Kampala demanding their immediate release.
The majority of whom are women and children contend that the continued detention of their people allegedly by the agents of the government is unlawful, and illegal, and constitutes a violation of their fundamental human rights enshrined under the Constitution.
The missing people are, John Bosco Kibalama, John Damulira, Shafik Wangolo, Martin Lukwago, Michael Semudu, Musisi Mbowa, Vincent Nalumoso, Dennis Zimbula, Muhammad Kanatta, George Katumba, Moses Mbabazi, Yuda Ssempijja, Alphat Mugumya, Peter Kitya, Mustapha Muwemba, Hassan Mubiru, Isma Ssesaazi, and Godfrey Kisembo.
In their application, the relatives argue that the government’s conduct is a flagrant dereliction of their human rights obligations to respect, uphold, and promote their fundamental human rights and freedoms. They are seeking compensation for a breach of the applicants’ constitutional rights and an order for damages and punitive demands.
The records submitted to the Court on Tuesday indicate that missing persons were arrested by security agents from different places and taken into custody and they have neither been produced in any court of law nor charged with any lawful offense.
The documents also show that the relatives of the said missing persons have used all reasonable means to access them to no avail and their places of detention are unknown to date.
Through their lawyers of PACE Advocates led by George Musisi, they further contend that the key government institutions such as the Uganda Police Force and Uganda Human Rights Commission have failed to account for their whereabouts.
They were last seen being arrested and detained by security agencies.
“The respondent/Attorney General is not only vicariously liable for the human rights violations, actions, and misconduct of the security agencies but also must account for the whereabouts of the said applicants.
According to Monica Nabukeera, the wife of Kibalama, her husband was working as an Accountant with BAT Uganda before his mysterious abduction or disappearance on June 3rd, 2019.
Nabukeera says his motor vehicle registration number UAZ 199E which he was driving on that fateful day was found abandoned along Kampala Gayaza Road near Ssekanyonyi Police Post. She adds that she received a phone call from police informing her about the vehicle and a case was subsequently opened under Reference Number SD 02-04-06-2019.
However, they were referred to Kansagati Police Division, and to date, she has never received any feedback from police regarding the status of investigations into his disappearance.
Later, Nabukeera narrates in her affidavit that she then saw in local Newspapers and Television the then Minister for Internal Affairs Jeje Odongo saying that Kibalama was facing trial in Court Martial but she again opened another case at CMI but to date, nothing has happened.
She also says that while speaking to journalists, Prime Minister Robinah Nabbanja said that her husband was in state custody.
In another affidavit by Winifred Katana, the wife of Damulira, the husband was a businessman dealing in motor vehicle spare parts before his arrest on November 21st, 2020 at around 11 am.
“That my son Damulira Alvin, who was with him at the time, and three other people were also taken together with my husband by armed men in civilian clothes, and in a motor vehicle van, commonly known as Drone whose registration details couldn’t be readily ascertained “, reads Katana’s affidavit.
Katana says they were hooded, handcuffed, and driven away, but her son together with three unknown others was later dropped at the Kireka Railway line.
Dr Lina Zedriga, the NUP Vice President in Charge of Northern Uganda has said if they cannot account for the people in question, let the government give them their bodies such that they are accorded a decent burial.
According to the Secretary-General for National Unity Platform -NUP David Lewis Rubongoya, this is not the first time they are going to court to demand the release of some of the people listed on the petition. He said they have made several efforts including petitioning Parliament where there was a big debate and different reports including police allegedly indicating that they were abducted by the regime, but they have refused to release them.
Rubongoya adds that NUP is struggling to cater to 189 children who fall in the category of those who have lost their parents in alleged state violence, detention, or are still missing.
The Leader of Opposition in Parliament Joel Ssenyonyi believes that there is no doubt that these people were reportedly abducted by the government and there is no way how NUP can abduct its own as the state alleges.
The Court has already summoned the Attorney General to put in the government’s defense to the allegations levied against them within 21 days. Then after, the case is going to be heard on April 8th, 2024 by Lady Justice Esta Nambayo.
The Uganda Human Rights Commission has in recent past made several reports regarding missing persons in the country.
However, the latest one released in October 2023 indicated that 12 of the persons who were reported missing were arrested on suspicion of having committed several offenses and were either released on police bond or court bail.