X-Judy Entry 8: Uganda

We’ve received a last minute, just under the wire entry for the X-Judy awards. (No really, we were totally just about to close this thing down.) And it’s a good one. Apparently, the Ugandan Joint Anti-Terrorism Task Force (JATT), not content to extrajudicially execute people, have taken to feeding false information to the victims’ families in the hopes of extorting money from them. (You can read HRW’s recent report about JATT’s abuses here.)

Our anonymous source provides an example:

JATT arrested Saidi Lutaaya around November 22, 2007, from the Old Taxi Park in Kampala where he worked as a hawker. Witnesses recalled his arrest as coinciding with the visit of Queen Elizabeth II to Kampala for the Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting (of course, you have to clamp down if the queen is coming to town). Two days later, the Voice of Africa radio program broadcast that the body of Saidi Lutaaya was at the mortuary at Mulago hospital in Kampala. A nurse from the hospital recognized Lutaaya and wanted to make sure his family was informed, so she phoned the radio station. According to eyewitnesses, those who attempted to collect his body were told that soldiers had come and taken the body away. Nurses informed family that Lutaaya had been brought to the hospital early in the morning by soldiers. One said that the man had “a hole in his foot and the bone of his lower leg was out, and that he was hit in the head with a hammer, blood was oozing out of his body.” He was still alive. He had been registered as “Sergeant Lutaaya” and was wearing an army jacket.

Soldiers told the nurses to call the soldiers who brought him to the hospital if and when he died, which they did later that night. Friends and family continued to search for news of the whereabouts of Lutaaya’s body. Eventually, a friend was approached by men he knew to be informers for JATT. He was told to tell Lutaaya’s wife not to give money to anyone who approached claiming to know Lutaaya’s whereabouts. “He said that Saidi was dead. People will come to her and say that they can help her but they cannot. He is dead.”

Two detainees who were in Kololo at the time of Lutaaya’s detention remember seeing him there. One told Human Rights Watch that Lutaaya was held in a room, referred to as Number 7, which was next to a small building where the toilets are located. It is separate from the main
house in the compound.

Because Lutaaya was not held with other male detainees in the garage of the main house, details of his detention and the manner of his death remain unclear. One detainee who knew Lutaaya from his neighborhood told Human Rights Watch that he saw Lutaaya trying to stand up and falling over repeatedly while guards told him he would be beaten for pretending to be injured. Then, three co-detainees were ordered to put Lutaaya’s injured body in a pickup truck and he was taken to the hospital. Several detainees who were brought to Kololo after Lutaaya’s death remarked that soldiers there occasionally mentioned Lutaaya’s beating as having been very severe. Lutaaya’s friends and family members have sought information from government authorities about is whereabouts. They have to date received no information. On March 9 2009, hospital administrators gave Lutaaya’s family his death certificate, which noted that he had been brought into the hospital on November 23 2007, comatose, and that his cause of death had not been ascertained. The section of the certificate which asks for details of the “morbid conditions” giving rise to the cause of death was not completed. In a response to Human Rights Watch, CMI [Chieftancy of Military Intelligence] denied any knowledge of the case of Saidi Lutaaya.

Kate Cronin-Furman

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *