Imagine being detained by government authorities without charge, without access to a lawyer, your whereabouts hidden from all of society. Imagine now that so much is going on in the world that mainstream media don’t have the time to tell your story, or the story of your four companions, all of which are going through the exact same thing.

How can you get help? How can you be freed or given access to your lawyer or your family to tell them you’re OK?

This exact story is currently unfolding in Uganda. The Human Rights Watch is demanding the Ugandan government charge or release the five detainees.

The physical location of the four men and one woman is unknown, which, according to the HRW, make it a case of enforced disappearance, illegal under international law and in violation of the Ugandan Constitution. Some former detainees say the five missing may be being held at Joint anti-Terrorism Task Force (JATT) headquarters in Kololo, a rich suburb of capital city Kampala.The former detainees also said the five missing were tortured and may now be in poor health, the HRW reports.

According to a report released by the HRW, the task force has heavily abused its power on many occasions resulting in multiple killings, enforced disappearances and allegations of torturing terrorism suspects.

Recently, the chief of military intelligence in Uganda wrote a report to the HRW outlining the reason for the five arrests in an attempt to justify the imprisonment of the missing. According to the report, Abdulrahman Kijjambu and Ismail Kambaale, two of the five, were arrested in July 2008 on suspicions of planning terrorism acts.

The third detainee, Abdul Hamid Lugemwa, was arrested in March 2008 for being involved in an “urban hit squad.” The letter also claims the military task force has no knowledge of the whereabouts of the fourth prisoner, Mohamed Sekulima.

HRW reports however that four former detainees say they say Sekulima in JATT custody on several separate occasions. The circumstances of the arrest of fifth detainee, Fatuma Nantongo, are unclear. Witnesses told the HRW that she was arrested in December of 2008 and was seen in JATT custody in Kololo in January 2009.

The letter from military intelligence unfortunately provided no insight into the exact whereabouts of the five missing. All five detainees are being denied the right to habeas corpus, which is mandatory under both international and Ugandan law.

Still, no charges have officially been filed.

Stick with Blast for updates on the story.

About The Author

Sachin Seth is the Blast Magazine world news reporter. He writes the Terra blog. You can visit his website at or follow him on twitter @sachinseth

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