The Attorney General and the Commissioner General of Prisons have been summoned by Lira High Court over suspicious death of an inmate in a government prison.
Justice Simon Byabakama Mugenyi wants Peter Nyombi and Dr Johnson Byabashaija to appear on July 5th to explain how David Olet, an inmate on remand on assault charges, was found dead in October 2010. Also summoned is Superintendent of Prisons Henry Berunga, who was the Officer in Charge Atopi Government Prison at the time of Olet’s death.
Olet died on October 13, 2010 while on remand at Atopi Government Prison on assault charges. His family in Apac District now says Olet was hurriedly buried sparking off suspicions about the circumstances under which he died. Olet’s father Michael Odur and widow, Esther Akot, now accuse the authorities at Atopi Government Prison of torturing him to death.
Through their lawyer, Quirinous Oyugi, the bereaved family sued government in January 2011 pushing for 100 million shillings as compensation. The case has, however, been pending until yesterday when the judge summoned the officials to appear.
Oyugi says they have pursued the suit against government over the irresponsibility of the prisons authority that allegedly led to the death Olet then an inmate with prison number 344/2010.
Oyugi told journalists during a press conference at his office in Apac town on Tuesday that the deceased with other prisoners were subjected to inhuman treatment that resulted into loss of life.
Olet, a water source caretaker at Atik cell, Abedi Parish in Apac Sub County was arrested on October 11, 2010 over allegations that he assaulted a one Betty Akullo at the water point. He was produced in court, charged with assault and immediately remanded to Atopi Prison, only to die two days later.
Following Olet’s death and hurried burial, the bereaved family went to court pushing for the body to be exhumed for proper medical examination. Godfrey Mugenyi, the then Grade One Magistrate Lira, ordered the exhumation of the body for a postmortem.
In the postmortem examination by two Doctors, Godfrey Kisembo of Apac Hospital and Moses Byaruhanga, a government Pathologist from Mulago Hospital, it was found out that Olet suffered a fractured neck. This contrasted with the earlier medical report by Dr. Odongo of Apac Hospital which said the ex-prisoner died of cerebral malaria.
Henry Berunga, the former Officer in charge of Atopi government prison, insists that Olet died of malaria.
But the police carried out their own investigations to establish the cause of the death. David Ibanda, the former Apac criminal investigations officer, invited a government pathologist to conduct a fresh post-mortem which found out that Olet died due a fractured neck.
Until the puzzle is fixed, the family says they hold government responsible for its actions.
When contacted, Frank Baine, the Uganda Prisons Spokesperson, said it is not unusual for the prisons officers to be summoned to court, adding that they will go and giver their answers.
Dr. Johnson Byabashaija, the Commissioner General of Prisons, says the incident should not cast doubts over the training capacity of the institution. He explains that the basic qualification for recruitment of warders is a Senior Four Certificate. However, the recruits undergo a nine month basic training on areas of human rights, law, criminology and prison administration to enable them learn how to handle inmates.