Human rights lawyer, Femi Falana (SAN), has dragged Uganda and President Yoweri Museveni to the United Nations over allegations of grave human rights violations in that country.
In the urgent appeal sent on Friday, Falana asked the special rapporteurs to use their good offices and position to “urgently investigate ongoing reports of clampdown on the rights to freedom of expression, peaceful assembly, association, media freedom and to human dignity in Uganda.”
The urgent appeal, dated August 23, 2018, was sent to the UN Working Group on Arbitrary Detention, Special Rapporteur on extrajudicial, summary or arbitrary executions, Special Rapporteur on the promotion and protection of the right to freedom of opinion and expression, Special Rapporteur on the rights to freedom of peaceful assembly and of association, Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights defenders and Special Rapporteur on torture and other cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment.
The urgent appeal, addressed to Seong-Phil Hong, Agnes Callamard, David Kaye, Clement Nyaletsossi Voule, Michel Forst and Nils Melzer, reads: “I am seriously concerned that the Ugandan authorities continue to arbitrarily arrest, detain and brutally beat, torture and humiliate critics, journalists, human rights defenders, activists, lawyers and opposition leaders and supporters. There are also several cases of unlawful killings during arrests. The authorities hardly investigate allegations of human rights violations and abuses.
“I urge you to closely monitor and scrutinise the human rights situation in Uganda and to take a more decisive role in combating years of impunity for human rights violations and abuses and erosion of the rule of law as well as the violation of general principles of justice in that country. I strongly believe that ending impunity and achieving justice in Uganda is central to promoting and ensuring full respect for all human rights.
“The government continues to deploy a range of tactics to stifle critical reporting, from occasional physical violence to threats, intimidation, bureaucratic interference, and arrest. Station managers of television and radio outfits and journalists often face reprisals if their programmes are deemed critical of the authorities.
“Ugandan laws such as the 2013 regressive Public Order Management Act, which grants police wide discretionary powers to permit or disallow gatherings continue to be used to ban protests and opposition rallies, arrest opposition members and commit other atrocities. Cases of prolonged illegal detention, torture and well-documented killings during protests, by security forces, remain unaddressed.
“Among several examples of grave human rights violations are: stopping academic Stella Nyanzi, from boarding a flight to the Netherlands to attend a conference on the ground that she criticised President Yoweri Museveni and his wife, regarding the authorities’ failure to fulfil their commitment to provide sanitary towels in girls’ schools; and the abduction of the Nation TV journalist Gertrude Tumusiime Uwitware by unknown assailants for several hours, simply for posting her support for Stella Nyanzi on social media.
“Others are the summoning of editors Arinaitwe Rugyendo of the Red Pepper newspaper and the online Daily Monitor, and Charles Bichachi of the Nation Media Group solely for publishing stories on the presidential age limit debate.
“Other cases include politically motivated charges against two journalists Herbert Zziwa and Ronald Muwanga on the flimsy ground that they reported allegations of assault on members of the press by security personnel regarding political unrest in northern Uganda’s Arua District; harassment by security personnel of Julius Bakabaage, John Kibalizi, and Benson Ongom, all journalists with the privately owned NBS Television for doing their job; and raids on the ActionAid Uganda’s offices in Kansanga, an area of Kampala, preventing staff from leaving the premises for several hours.
“Further, opposition leader Kassiano Wadri and several other people including MPs Kassiano Wadri, Gerand Karuhanga, Paul Mwiru, Francis Zaake, John Ssebuffu, Faruku Abdurahamad, Asiku Tom, Ondoga Rasul, Tamale Wilberforce, Owen Mohamad, Musisi William Nyanzi, Draji Tom, Wani Tom, Amidu Juma, Atiku Shabani, Gamba Tumusiime, Kasuke Ismail, Mandela Nelson, Obeti Simon, Ojotre Stephen, Asega Habib, Ijaga Mohamad, Hamiku Charles, Andama Benard, Andama Anywar Doka, Odongo John Bosco, and Butelezi Noor Manzur.
“Others are: Ijotre Basir, Galumbe Anidu, Alara Maida, Asara Night and Malubowa Caroline, were charged with treason. The charge sheet was amended to include Kyagulanyi Sentamu Robert alias Bobi Wine, who is also facing charges before the General Court Martial. Kyagulanyi was arrested last following the chaos in Arua that allegedly culminated into the stoning of president Museveni’s convoy. Kyagulanyi was reportedly tortured in detention. He is being charged for the same alleged offence in both the General Court Martial and a civil court.”
Falana therefore urged the special rapporteurs to urgently intervene to put pressure on the Ugandan government to: Respect, protect, promote and full the enjoyment of human rights by the people of Uganda including by ensuring that peaceful opposition groups can operate freely and exercise the freedoms of assembly, association, expression, consistent with Uganda’s Constitution and international and regional human rights treaties to which Uganda is a state party; Immediately end persecution, harassment and intimidation of critics, journalists, human rights defenders, activists and other opposition members and their supporters; End illegal detention and torture of suspects; investigate and bring to justice state security agents who have committed human rights violations and abuses; and Request to jointly visit Uganda in order to conduct fact finding mission and to report back to the UN Human Rights Council on your findings and action for the Council to take.