COMRADES AT KITALYA: An Update
By David Lewis Rubongoya
Some comrades have been asking for updates about the cases regarding our friends at Kitalya.
Our legal teams have been working tirelessly to secure their release, but unfortunately the systems are stacked against us. The regime has deliberately kept them away.
Firstly we applied for bail in the General Court Martial. After few weeks of adjournments, only 13 out of 49 were released on bail. The reason given for not releasing the 36 was strange. Gen. Gutti stated that if he released on bail, they would engage in violence.
We disagreed with the ruling and applied for bail in the High Court. After several weeks of waiting, the Registrar of the High Court returned the papers to us, with a letter stating that they could not hear the case since it was filed in the General Court Martial. We pulled out previous cases such as the one of Gen. Sejjusa and that of Hon. Kabaziguruka where the High Court granted bail to these individuals who were being tried in the Court Martial. Still, the High Court refused to listen to the case.
In a separate suit, we had applied to the High Court to terminate the proceedings in the General Court Martial following gross violations of human rights. We waited for over a month for the ruling which was given two weeks back. In the most unfortunate ruling, the High Court refused to terminate the proceedings and went as far as saying that we should have produced medical reports to prove that our comrades had been tortured. We wondered how they expected us to get the medical reports, when access to them had been restricted! The rest of the decision was just as bad!
It is clear from these decisions that everyone is scared to order for the release of these comrades!
Despite these frustrations, we have not given up the legal avenues. First, we are appealing to the Court of Appeal against the order of the High Court. In law, you can only lodge an appeal once you have the record of proceedings from the court which made the decision, and our legal team is pushing to date, to get that record from the High Court. Second, we are petitioning the Constitutional Court, with prayers to declare the arrest, torture and detention of our people unconstitutional. Finally, we have filed a further bail application in the Court Martial, and we are waiting to be given dates when these matters can be heard.
It is important to note that each of these processes is time consuming, including having to wait for affidavits to be commissioned from prisons, etc. We have also continued to pursue other regional and international legal avenues.
Aside from the legal processes, we have called upon citizens to raise their voices against the injustice being occasioned on these our comrades. While there is much more light on the team at Kitalya, it is important to know that the comrades in detention are in thousands- some at Kitalya, while others are in other legal and illegal detention centers across the country. Our lawyers have been working tirelessly to find out who the others are, and have applied for different remedies including bail, orders for unconditional release, habeas corpus, etc. Through these efforts, we have been able to secure the release of hundreds of comrades through the ordinary courts and the military courts, especially the one at Kakiri.
Through the support of friends here and abroad, we have continued to support our detained comrades with their needs while in prison, and where possible, extended support to their families as well. Many of you continue to support their families directly, and for this we are GRATEFUL.
We thank the religious leaders, traditional leaders, political leaders and all other citizens who have continued to call for the freedom of our people, because these are prisoners of conscience. Everyone, including their captors know that they did not commit any crime. We can only add to these efforts, because none of us is free, until all of us are free.