UGANDA: Authorities attempt to silence human rights organisations ahead of constitutional amendment
Paris-Geneva-Kampala, September 25, 2017 - As Parliament of Uganda discusses the constitutional amendment to lift presidential age limit, the Observatory for the Protection of Human Rights Defenders (FIDH-OMCT), FHRI and Chapter Four Uganda call upon authorities to refrain from further hindering the right to freedom of speech, association and peaceful assembly.
On September 20, 2017, police raided the premises of ActionAid Uganda (AAU) and Great Lakes Institute for Strategic Studies (GLISS) in Kampala as well as the house of GLISS Executive Director, Mr. Godbar Tumushabe. ActionAid Uganda works to foster human rights and fight poverty in the country. GLISS is an independent policy think tank actively involved in regional public policy and human rights issues in the Great Lakes sub-region.
A police pick-up truck parked outside Action Aid Offices in Kampala following the siege on 21st September 2017
Search warrants included allegations of “illicit transfer of funds for funding unlawful activities”. ActionAid Uganda premises have since been sealed off and several documents, electronic equipment and bank related documents were seized from both organisations. Searches were carried out overnight until the next day at both organisations and were supposed to resume at ActionAid Uganda premises on September 25, 2017 at 10:00 am.
Our organisations believe that the raid of the two NGOs merely aim at sanctioning their human rights activities. Moreover, both organisations have been critical of the constitutional amendment to lift presidential age limit to allow President Yoweri Museveni, 73, to run for another term in 2021.
“Ugandan authorities are using preventive arrests and detention to stifle critical voices and intimidate human rights defenders. Authorities must put an end to any form of harassment, including at the judicial level, against civil society organisations and ensure that they are able to carry out their human rights activities without fear of retaliation”, said our organisations.
The Observatory, FHRI and Chapter Four Uganda urge Ugandan authorities to uphold their international obligations and ensure full respect for freedoms of expression, association and peaceful assembly.
Several demonstrations planned in Kampala on September 21, 2017, as the motion was supposed to be discussed in Parliament, were contained by police forces who arrested several protesters. On that day, 28 youths were arrested at Makerere University and later detained in Wandegeya and Central police stations. 27 of them were released on bond the next day. One of them remained in detention at Central police station until September 25, 2017, on allegations of assault.
The same day, Mr. Erias Lukwago, Lord Mayor of Kampala, was briefly arrested on suspicion that he was going to lead a protest to Parliament. Earlier on, on September 18, 2017, the police fired teargas to disperse a group of youth activists protesting the constitutional amendment in front of the Parliament.
The Observatory for the Protection of Human Rights Defenders (the Observatory) was created in 1997 by FIDH and the World Organisation Against Torture (OMCT). The objective of this program is to prevent or remedy situations of repression against human rights defenders. FIDH and OMCT are both members of ProtectDefenders.eu, the European Union Human Rights Defenders Mechanism implemented by international civil society.
For more information, please contact:
• FIDH: Samuel Hanryon (French, English): +33 6 72 28 42 94 (Paris)
• OMCT: Delphine Reculeau (French, English): +41 22 809 49 39 (Geneva)
• FHRI: Sheila Muwanga (English): +256 773 486 911 (Kampala)
• Chapter Four: Magelah Peter Gwayaka (English) +256 782 500 041 (Kampala)