The fate of the UPDF soldier who lost his manhood under torture by his superiors in Somalia was sealed last Friday after a field military court in Mogadishu sentenced him to 20 years in prison.
Corporal Majid Sebyara is now impotent.
He was subsequently flown back to Uganda at the weekend, briefly held at Makindye Military Barracks before he was deposited at Luzira prison.
If he does not appeal or the sentence is upheld by the Appellate Court, the 33-year-old father of three will spend the next 20 years in jail and will be dismissed from the army with disgrace. Dismissal with disgrace means he will not receive anything for his service in the army be it gratuity, pension or any other entitlement provided for under the Uganda People’s Defence Forces (UPDF) terms and conditions of service.
Cpl Sebyara’s plight was first published by Daily Monitor last December after the High Court halted his trial by the military tribunal and ordered his release. Two weeks ago, Daily Monitor reported that the army sneaked him back to Somalia for trial by a military tribunal without his lawyers’ knowledge.
His lawyer, Mr Ivan Mugabi, confirmed yesterday Cpl Sebyara’s extradition to Somalia and the resultant conviction. He said the incident had shocked the human rights legal fraternity.
“He was sentenced to 20 years imprisonment last Friday and returned here on Saturday. I met him at Makindye before he was taken to Luzira prison. I am shocked and appalled by the conduct of some of the elements of UPDF and the way this illegality was executed. I walked to court to defend my client only to be informed he had been flown to Somalia. The next I heard from him is this sad news. We shall do all we can to reverse this abuse of human rights,” counsel Mugabi said.
Last Thursday when Cpl Sebyara appeared before the General Court Martial at Makindye in Kampala, he informed the court chairman, Lt Gen Andre Guti, that he could not take part in the trial without his lawyers. The court offered him an army lawyer whom he rejected.
Military sources told Daily Monitor that the army’s legal officer, a major, too declined to represent Cpl Sebyara, saying she could not impose herself on a client.
The court, however, proceeded with the trial and adjourned the case to the next day. His lawyers prepared to return to the court the following day.
However in the night, Cpl sebyara was clandestinely whisked to Somalia where he was summarily tried by a military tribunal and convicted before he was sentenced to 20 years in jail.
The Defence and UPDF spokesman Brig Richard Karemire yesterday said: “The issue is that we are operating in Somalia, so soldiers can be tried anywhere we are operating from if they have committed service offences in such places. Sebyara is not the last nor the first. If he rejected the UPDF lawyer and feels the process was unfair, he can appeal.”
Human rights lawyer and Chapter Four executive director Nicholas Opiyo condemned Cpl Sebyara’s trial.
“That case is reminiscent of what happened in Karamoja in March 2002, where a Division Court Martial tried and executed two civilians in 20 minutes for allegedly killing a priest. The officer in charge had mobilised the village to witness the execution and cleared the ground for the same. So clearly, the trial was a mockery of justice,” Mr Opiyo said.
“The trial was done to defeat justice he [Sebyara] was pursuing against the army which he accused of torturing him,” Mr Opio added.
Mr Ladislaus Rwakafuuzi, the executive director of the Centre for Media and Justice responded in shock.
“Oh God! The whole process was to defeat justice. I am too shocked and heartbroken to learn of this. I prefer not to comment now. Some of these actions really return Uganda to the dark days we all dread,” he said.
Yesterday, Sebyara’s lawyer, Mr Mugabi said he had written to the General Court Martial requesting for a copy of the judgment to facilitate his appeal but by press time the army had not responded.
Genesis of Sebyara’s jeopardy
Cpl Ssebyara’s trouble started on June 12, 2015 after some ammunition for an anti-aircraft gun were reported missing. He was held responsible. He was tortured to impotence. Pictures seen by this newspaper which were adduced and admitted in court to prove torture in Somalia show him screaming.
His hands appear tied to a metallic bar and a black sack is tied to his private parts and suspended. The sack is seen dangling between his legs, the navel area growing red and his sexual organs stressed by the weight of the load.
In his petition in the High Court challenging his trial in the General Court Martial, Cpl Sebyara recounted how he was “undressed, insulted and tied by the hands on a steel bar, a bag of about 15kg tied and hanged on his penis and testicles.” He was then handcuffed and dumped in a container for 24 hours.
Medical reports made on October 6 and November 2, 2015, from Nakasero Hospital in Kampala and Bombo Military Hospital respectively indicate his right testicle is shrunk, was non-tender and he suffered from “chronic right testicular infarction and internal echogenicity with no flow.” His testicles had decayed, making him incapable of getting an erection or passing out urine normally.
Attempts by his lawyers to get him further treatment collapsed after the UPDF ignored their pleas.
On September 2, 2015, Cpl Sebyara was arraigned before the General Court Martial and charged with failure to protect war material, an offence that attracts a death sentence on conviction. He denied the charges and petitioned the High Court challenging his trial in the military court.
During the hearing of the petition, army witnesses Col Frank Kyambadde, Maj Tom Bbalibya, and Maj Raphael Mugisha testified that Cpl Sebyara had admitted to selling the missing ammunition to a Somali citizen.
However on November 22, 2016, the High Court declared Cpl Sebyara’s trial in the military court “illegal, null and void” and ordered the army court to release him. The court ruled that Sebyara’s purported confession to selling the ammunition had been extracted under torture and was therefore a nullity in law.
However, to circumvent the High Court order, on December 12, 2016, the army charged Sebyara afresh with “offences relating to security” and trespassing on the property of a Somali resident.
The issues at hand
Tortured. Cpl Ssebyara’s trouble started on June 12, 2015 after some ammunition for an anti-aircraft gun were reported missing. He was held responsible. He was tortured to impotence. Pictures seen by this newspaper which were adduced and admitted in court to prove torture in Somalia show him screaming.
Medical report. Medical reports made on October 6 and November 2, 2015, from Nakasero Hospital in Kampala and Bombo Military Hospital respectively indicate his right testicle is shrunk, was non-tender and he suffered from “chronic right testicular infarction and internal echogenicity with no flow.” His testicles had decayed, making him incapable of getting an erection or passing out urine normally.