Prison officers who assaulted two journalists in Kalisizo Prison and damaged their cameras will not be interdicted because they were provoked, the commissioner general of prison has said. “I have a right especially when I am in my premises. You can’t confront me and you say I have assaulted you. I refused to interdict those people of Kalisizo,” Dr Johnson Byabashaija said while addressing prison officers in Lira District on Thursday. He said prison officers who are “maliciously” charged in court will not be interdicted.
Three prison warders attached to Kalisizo Prison were in May produced in court on accusation of assaulting journalists.
Mr Robert Ssemata, Mr Frank Kyomwiru and Mr Alex Mukasa were remanded on allegation that they assaulted Pascal Lutabi, a Monitor journalist and Mr John Bosco Mulyowa of Vision Group on March 18, while they were covering a story about the escape of several inmates from the prison. Several reports have been published, accusing Uganda Prison Service personnel of torture of prisoners with impunity.
Reports on torture
The latest Uganda Human Rights Commission (UHRC) report states that torture and cruel treatment or punishment increased from 23.7 per cent in 2007 to 35.31 per cent in 2012. Uganda Prisons Services accounted for 26 cases of these violations.
Human Rights Watch (HRW) in July 2011 published a damning 80-page report on routine physical abuse and the failure of the criminal justice system to protect the rights of prisoners. The report details how they must work in the gardens all day as fellow prisoners called Katikkiro, whip them if they pause, complain of sickness, or are too weak to work.
HRW said profits from prisoner labour often benefit individual prison officers, while prisoners suffer illness from inadequate food, water, and basic hygiene. “If you say you’re sick, the warden just kicks you and says, ‘even dead bodies must work,” an inmate at Muduuma Prison told HRW. In his address, Dr Byabashaija said prisoners must be paid when they work.