Soldier who lost manhood flown to Somalia for trial

Published by Théophile Niyitegeka
On 5 March 2017 saa 07:32
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The Uganda People’s Defence Forces (UPDF) on Tuesday stealthily flew out to Somalia the soldier who lost his manhood after he was tortured by senior army officers.

His lawyers now fear that Cpl Majibu Ssebyara, whose horrid account of beastly torture by his superiors Daily Monitor exposed in December 2016, could be summarily tried and “unfairly convicted, sentenced and in the worst case scenario executed.”

Human rights lawyer Ivan Mugabi, who has been representing the embattled soldier for two years, told Saturday Monitor: “I talked to him on phone on Tuesday and he inquired what he would do. I told him to plead to the army that he has had lawyers for two years so he can’t take part in proceedings without his lawyers. He was meant to be tried yesterday (Wednesday) but I have lost communication with him and the army is not giving his attorneys and family audience.”

According to the lawyer, the soldier, alongside four unidentified others, was picked from Makindye Military Barracks detention cells in Kampala at 4am, driven at breakneck speed to Entebbe International Airport from where they were hauled into a waiting plane. It is at this point that the soldier sent his lawyer a text message, seen by this newspaper, which read: “I am being flown to Somalia. I don’t know what to expect. Pray for me and my family.”

The five soldiers were flown out alongside officers of the General Court Martial who will try them in Mogadishu, the capital of Somalia, where a contingent of the UPDF is deployed as part of the African Union Peacekeeping Mission in Somalia (Amisom).

“My reliable sources in the army say the plot is to have them convicted in Somalia because the lawyers in Kampala are a stumbling block. We condemn and shall resist this impunity and gross violation of his right to a fair trial to the best of our human ability. We shall resist attempts by a few rogue elements to take Uganda back to the dark days of Idi Amin and even worse,” lawyer Mugabi said.

When contacted on Thursday, army spokesman Brig Richard Karemire said: “We don’t sneak people out of the country; least our own. If he was taken to Somalia that becomes a court matter and it will be handled by the court martial.”

Cpl Ssebyara’s troubles date back to June 12, 2015, when tension heightened at the UPDF base in the lower Shabelle region in Somalia after a tin containing ammunition for a 12.7mm anti-aircraft gun vanished, leaving him as a suspect. He would later be tortured culminating in the loss of his manhood. Pictures seen by this newspaper that were adduced and admitted in court as credible evidence show the soldier screaming as he balances in space with his hands tied to a metal bar and a black sack suspended and dangling between his thighs, the navel area growing red and his male organs subjected to the pressure and weight of the sack.

In an August 8, 2016 affidavit sworn in support of his application challenging the trial at the General Court Martial, Cpl Ssebyara recounted how he was, “undressed, insulted and tied by the hands on a steel bar, a bag of about 15 kilogrammes tied and hanged on the penis and testicles.” He was then handcuffed and dumped in a metallic container for 24 hours.

Medical reports dated October 6 and November 2, 2015, from Nakasero Hospital in Kampala and Bombo Military Hospital respectively indicate his right testicle had become smaller than the contralateral (opposite) testis, was non-tender and he suffered from “chronic right testicular infarction and internal echogenicity with no flow.”

The 15-kilogramme weight blocked blood flow to the testicles of the father of three, causing decay. Cpl Ssebyara can neither get an erection nor pass urine normally. Attempts by his lawyers to get him further treatment have fallen on deaf ears of the military authorities. Under Section II of the Prevention and Prohibition of Torture Act, 2012, the errant soldiers can be held liable in their individual capacity for the torture.
On September 2, 2015, Cpl Ssebyara was arraigned before the General Court Martial in case file UPDF/GCM/15/2015 (Uganda versus RA/145680) and charged with failure to protect war material contrary to section 122(1)(2)(g) of the UPDF Act, 2005, an offence that attracts a death sentence. He pleaded innocent to the charge and challenged his trial before the army court in the High Court.

In their affidavit dated August 25, 2016, and September 14, 2016, army witnesses Col Frank Kyambadde, Maj Tom Bbalibya, and Maj Raphael Mugisha claim Cpl Ssebyara admitted he handed the missing ammunition to a Somali citizen.

In a November 22, 2016 judgment, High Court Judge Patricia Basaza Wasswa declared the trial “illegal, null and void” and issued an order staying the proceedings and ordered that the army court, which the Supreme Court in a landmark case of Attorney General Vs Joseph Tumushabe (constitutional appeal number 3 of 2005), ruled was subordinate to the High Court, to discharge the soldier and never use evidence obtained through torture to try him.

She also rejected as unfounded the army’s claim that Cpl Ssebyara attempted to sell ammunition to the unnamed Somali at $1,000 (Shs3.8 million) and on failure to seal the deal, he buried the same in a hole in a compound of the potential buyer.

Rather than obey the High Court judgment, the army instead charged Cpl Ssebyara afresh on December 12, 2016, with, “offences relating to security,” contrary to section 130(1)(a) of the UPDF Act. It is for this offence that Cpl Ssebyara has been sneaked out of the country for a trial his lawyers now allege is designed to secure a conviction and sentence outside the “inconvenience of lawyers in Kampala.”

When this newspaper first broke the story, Gen Katumba Wamala, the former Chief of Defence Forces, promised the army would investigate the matter but no results have emerged from that promise.

This newspaper understands the court martial has a session in Somalia but lawyer Mugabi says: “It is strange to take a soldier facing trial in Uganda for another court session there ordinarily is meant for soldiers serving in Somalia.”

Trial annulled

On September 2, 2015, Cpl Ssebyara was arraigned before the General Court Martial in case file UPDF/GCM/15/2015 (Uganda versus RA/145680) and charged with failure to protect war material contrary to section 122(1)(2)(g) of the UPDF Act, 2005, an offence that attracts a death sentence. He pleaded innocent to the charge and challenged his trial before the army court in the High Court. In their affidavit dated August 25, 2016, and September 14, 2016, army witnesses Col Frank Kyambadde, Maj Tom Bbalibya, and Maj Raphael Mugisha claim Cpl Ssebyara admitted he handed the missing ammunition to a Somali citizen. In a November 22, 2016 judgment, High Court Judge Patricia Basaza Wasswa declared the trial “illegal, null and void” and issued an order staying the proceedings and ordered that the army court, which the Supreme Court in a landmark case of Attorney General Vs Joseph Tumushabe, (Constitutional appeal number 3 of 2005), ruled was subordinate to the High Court, to discharge the soldier and never use evidence obtained through torture to try him.

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Tortured. Cpl Majibu Ssebyara. On the left (dotted) is the place where he met his ordeal.

Source:Daily Monitor


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