By Vincent Nuwagaba
Can anybody outside there help me get justice?: John Bosco Olweny
While in Murchison Bay Prison where I spent 13 days from 25th October to 7th November, I found it prudent to gather some views from inmates and share with them experiences. Some of the notes I had written, I failed to trace as I was going to court but I have some of the notes which I feel obliged to share with the Ugandans at Heart forumists. I am convinced that if we continue exposing the grave human rights violations, we will ultimately be able to have a society free from human rights violations. Sadly, the Uganda Human Rights Commission seems not to be interested in human rights violations of this nature. This partly explains the reason as to why the Uganda Human Rights Commission wins awards as the best National Human Rights Institution because a picture is painted that the human rights situation in Uganda is improving yet in an actual sense it is deteriorating and we have many Ugandans who have lost faith in state institutions and therefore choose to suffer silently because they know even reporting will give them no redress. Below is the self-reported ordeal of John Bosco Olweny, Court File 076/08 General Court Martial
My name is Olweny John Bosco. I was arrested from Nandos along Kampala Road on 19th May 2008 by plainclothes security operatives only to identify themselves from their Headquarters, Kireka that they are officials from Rapid Response Unit (RRU). From around 10:30 am (time of his arrest) both my legs and hands were tied up with handcuffs. From midday till 17:30 hours I was locked in a small toilet waiting to be tortured. It came to pass then- they tortured me with batons while undressed. During this time of torture the operatives were demanding money to the tune of Shillings 10 million if my life was to be spared. They maintained that failure to comply with their demands, I would be killed.
After five days or so, I was told to plead guilty to the offence that I didn’t know of and also which I didn’t commit – i.e. intent to commit a felony. I never wrote any statement nor was I taken to court. It was by surprise that after a month on 20th June 2008 I was told by a one Asiimwe to write a caution statement. I was told that I was involved in a different case which was committed in Arua on 12th June 2008 together with other three who were brought from Arua on 18th June 2008. I later found their names to be Ojango Emmanuel, Odong Martin Opira and Odongo Wilson. I denied any knowledge of having been a partner in crime by the said names.
It is actually absurd and irrational for the operatives to contend that I was participant in an alleged criminal action of the 12th June 2008. Aware that I was already in the unlawful custody in Kireka from 19th May 2008. If one checked for the CRB, Lock Up and admission book for the station , they would prove what I say.
On 1st July 2008 together with others, I was taken to Makindye Military Barracks (Go down). Up to 7th October I was in detention. The three – Ojango, Odong and Odongo who later turned to be my co-accused were taken to General Court Martial and remanded to Kigo Prison. I remained.
On 15th October I was taken to the General Court Martial only to be told that I was charged with illegal possession of firearm and attempted robbery. The operatives arrested me alone without any documents linking me to committing a felony or even with any weapon as it was alleged.
On 23rd October 2008, I was in the same dock with the three offenders from Arua whose offence was committed on 12th June 2008. The hearing was adjourned to 19th November 2008. On 11th November the case was heard before the then GCM chairman Lt Gen Ivan Koreta. Prosecution witness one, a complainant named Aziz and prosecution witness two, a police detective who arrested the three accused from Arua were summoned.
In their testimonies, both prosecution witnesses identified the first three accused and stated that they participated in the offence. This was on 11th November 2008. Both prosecution witnesses denied knowledge of my arrest and also attested that I never took part in the attempted robbery. Prosecution Witness 2 – the police officer said that they were interested in arresting the other three and indeed they arrested them. That Ojango was arrested red-handed with a pistol without a certificate contrary to the laws of Uganda. I was added as accused number 4 which left me in a dilemma.
On 18th December 2008, our case was fixed for further hearing. Court didn’t sit until the 28th October 2009 under a new chairman Brig Bernard Rwehururu. Instead of proceeding with the hearing, the case was mentioned and adjourned to 10th December 2009. On the 10th December 2009, the first two changed their plea for all the charges, i.e. they pleaded guilty. They were then remanded and later on the 16th December 2009 they were brought to court for mitigation. They were convicted and sentenced to four years for the two counts.
For the two of us – accused three (A3), Odong o Wilson and me (A4), the court made an adjournment to 17th February 2010 in order to summon more witnesses. We were later to go back to court on 19th May 2010. When we appeared in court on May 19, 2010 defence lawyer Captain Edgar Tibaijuka advised us to apply for bail. With the help of FHRI’s Rashid Bunya we applied for bail. Sh1.5 million was paid to the said Edgar Tibaijuka by my mother and my wife. Captain Tibaijuka received the money but he was aware that he had been transferred from the General Court Martial for other assignment within the UPDF operational areas. He didn’t even pay the money for my bail – he used the money.
On 20th July, 2010 I went to court but it didn’t sit. I was again called on production warrant on 22nd July. I never entered the dock and I was not told why I was summoned and why my bail documents were never presented and accepted in court.
On 27th July, I was again called on production warrant for bail. But again I never entered the court room. Meanwhile all my sureties were coming and they were not being told what to do. I learnt later that Capt Edgar Tibaijuka the defence lawyer ate the money for bail.
I was supposed to report on 12th August 2010 but I was not picked. The same thing happened on the 14th September without any explanation. On 29th September 2010, I went to court but I didn’t enter the court room. On 4th November 2010, my sureties came and talked to a new defence lawyer Capt Drago who said that Edgar might have misused the money and further said that my bail application documents were missing and promised to trace them.
On 12th January 2011, I went to court but court didn’t sit and an adjournment was made for 9th March 2011. Again on 9th March court didn’t sit. On 24th, I again went to court but remained in the cell and I was given an adjournment to 1st June when again court didn’t sit.
On 25th April 2012, I was produced in court before Brig Charles Angina. Brig Angina made an adjournment to 2nd May and said that if the prosecution doesn’t produce witnesses, he would release me on no case to answer. Unfortunately, court was stopped abruptly and didn’t sit. To date, I have not been called to court.
My humble concern and request is to get justice. I have lost money, time and I continue to languish in prison when I am innocent. The first two accused who pleaded guilty have since finished their sentence and are now with their families. Ironically, I whom both the complainant and detective who arrested the others denied ever knowing don’t know my fate and I always ask, where is justice?
FHRI’s Josephine, Rashid, Adrine and the rest know my standing and have the copy of my concern and my case is not new to them. I don’t have money any more, what do I do? Can anybody out there help me get justice and bail me out of the hell in which I am? May all civilians being tried in the General Court Martial be tried by the civilian courts for fair and expeditious trial? People are dying. My humble request is to be helped out of this dangerous and serious issue.
Background to Olweny’s ordeal
Sometime back before 2006, I was employed by a security firm tasked with transportation of valuables such as cash in transit. In October 2006 I was implicated and charged with embezzlement in the Chief Magistrate’s Court, Buganda Road Court. This was after Violent Crime Crack Unit (VCCU) which later changed into Rapid Response Unit (RRU) looted my money worth Shillings 26 million, a generator, photocopier, digital camera and other household items.
The alleged embezzlement was orchestrated by the fraudulent action of the bank officials who happened to handover the consignment when they had already removed the boxes.
I was arrested with others from my place of work on 13th October 2006. Justice prevailed for me and the case was disposed off in 2011 in his favour on no case to answer.
The then VCCU told me not to report to anybody about my money and other property. They threatened to kill me if I ever reported the matter. I didn’t succumb to the threat.
In 2008, I was arrested because of my continuous demands of my money and other property. At one time during the arrest they told me that I should sell my house to rescue me claiming that they knew it had bought it using embezzled money. I was in possession of Sh3 million and they said I had to add Sh7 million if I was to be released.
One of the operatives by the name Nixon Byaruhanga in his words told me to plead guilty to any offence. They said if not I would die in jail. Byaruhanga said, “These handcuffs are basically to punish you since you are so mean as you have refused to raise the Sh10 million and refused to sell the house”. Byaruhanga said, they would fasten the handcuffs until I confess. Byaruhanga said, “If you confess now, we shall remove the handcuffs now; if you confess tomorrow, we shall remove them tomorrow, if you take a year without confessing, you will wear them for a year and if you never confess, you will wear them up to your grave”.
Much as I was brutally tortured, I maintained my innocence. Later they irrationally and maliciously implicated me with the offence of illegal possession of firearms and attempted robbery with the other three culprits arrested from Arua.
I appeal to human rights defenders to intervene and avert the travesty of justice against me.
As told to Vincent Nuwagaba
Vincent Nuwagaba is a human rights defender