Sunday November 24 2013

UPDF soldier petitions court martial over ‘illegal’ detention

By Dear Jeanne

Kampala- A Lieutenant Colonel in the UPDF group which returned from peace operations in Somalia has taken the Commandant of Military Police, Col Muhanga Kayanja, to the General Court Martial, accusing him of unlawful detention.

Lt Col Lawrence Kansiime was allegedly arrested by Col Kayanja upon his return from the African Union Mission in Somalia (Amisom) last month and has since been in detention at Makindye Military Barracks.

According to Lt Col Kansiime’s petition to the military court, while still serving in Somalia, he had been arrested on suspicion that he was part of the racket by some UPDF officers implicated in the theft of fuel and food meant for military operations in Mogadishu.

He was charged in the Division Court Martial (DCM) in Somalia, which handles prosecution of Amisom soldiers accused of committing field offences in the operational areas.

However, the DCM released Lt Col Kansiime on bail in September. When the time for the UPDF Battle Group 10 in Somalia elapsed last month, he returned with the rest of the group.
On arrival at Entebbe Airbase, a relative was waiting to pick Lt Col Kansiime.

The arrest
When they reached the parking yard, as the relative was preparing to drive out, a military man showed up and told Lt Col Kansiime that he was needed at Makindye Barracks and a vehicle had been sent to pick him. He was taken away and detained at Makindye barracks.

The Chieftaincy of Legal Services communicated to Col Kayanja that Lt Col Kansiime’s arrest and detention for the same offence for which he was standing trial on bail before the Division Court Martial was inexcusable. The legal services department directed for his immediate release.

“Col Muhanga chose to hold the legal opinion and directives in contempt and has up to date refused to release Col Kansiime from illegal confinement. The DCM is now operating in Uganda. If it did so wish, it would have cancelled the bail,” reads the petition from Kansiime’s lawyers.

However, army sources told Sunday Monitor that upon receiving the legal department’s directive, Col Kayanja consulted the office of the Chief of Defence Forces on whether he should release Lt Col Kansiime but he was reportedly told to retain the accused until further instructions.
“Col Muhanga purported to cancel and did in fact cancel the applicant’s [Kansiime] bail and subsequently arrested and subjected him to arbitrary and extrajudicial incarceration at Makindye Military Barracks prison to date,” the petition further reads.

In his defence to the General Court Martial, Col Kayanja denies cancelling Lt Col Kansiime’s bail.

He says he is not a court but was only implementing the court’s bail condition.
The General Court Martial was scheduled to hear Kansiime’s petition on Thursday but it was rescheduled to Tuesday next week.

Col Kansiime has spent about 45 days in detention.
The army spokesperson, Lt Col Paddy Ankunda, said during the investigations, new information came up, which impelled the army to arrest Lt Col Kansiime.
He confirmed Lt Col Kansiime will appear in court next week.

Col Kansiime is seeking court to order Col Muhanga Kayanja to give reasons why he should not be arrested and tried for contempt of the Division Court Martial decision.