The Ugandan government must put an end to a series of break-ins targeting human rights organizations, which culminated May 22 in the murder of a security guard at the offices of HRAPF, the Human Rights Awareness and Promotion Forum.
Ten human rights organizations joined forces today to deliver that message, calling for a quick investigation of the crimes.
Representatives of the 10 organizations attended the press conference where the following statement was read by Hassan Shire, executive director of the East and Horn of Africa Human Rights Defenders Project (Defend Defenders).
Uganda government should immediately take steps to end pattern of office break-ins
10 Ugandan civil society organisations urge the government of Uganda to conduct swift and transparent investigations into the recent wave of office break-ins targeting human rights organisations and take steps to put an end to the practice.
On 22 May 2016, the Human Rights Awareness and Promotion Forum (HRAPF) offices were broken into and the guard on duty [Emmanuel] was beaten to death. The offices of the Executive Director and Deputy Executive Director were broken into and left ransacked, and an unknown number of documents were taken. Other valuable items, such as laptops and other electronics, were left in the offices.
“We are deeply concerned about the series of break-ins that have targeted civil society organisations lately. The Ugandan government should ensure that those responsible for the brutal murder of HRAFP’s guard and the burglary are found and held accountable, and take steps to end this pattern of break-ins,” said Sheila Muwanga, Deputy Director of the Foundation for Human Rights Initiative.
On 10 April 2016, unknown assailants attempted to break into the offices of Human Rights Network for Journalists-Uganda (HRNJ-U) after sedating their guard. HRNJ-Uganda was last broken into on 29 June 2015, when robbers stole computers, valuable documents, cash and other property reportedly worth 45 million Ugandan shillings. Police investigations were inconclusive.
Between 2013 and 2014, the NGO Forum reported that at least 26 NGO offices were broken into. The Foundation for Human Rights Initiative and Defend Defenders (East and Horn of Africa Human Rights Defenders Project) were also broken into in 2014, and had organisational documents searched and valuable goods stolen. Although police conducted investigations, these remained inconclusive.
“It is of concern that assailants do not only look for valuable goods, but also steal confidential organisational documents. This indicates that the break-ins are not random, but target human rights organisations specifically,” said Nicolas Opiyo, Executive Director of Chapter Four.
The government of Uganda should ensure that human rights organisations work in a free and safe environment, immediately take steps to find those responsible for this latest break-in – which regrettably resulted in loss of life – and investigate this extremely worrying pattern affecting human rights organisations in Uganda.
These 11 organizations endorsed the statement:
- Chapter Four Uganda
- Defend Defenders (East and Horn of Africa Human Rights Defenders Project)
- Defenders Protection Initiative
- Foundation for Human Rights Initiative (FHRI)
- Human Rights Awareness and Promotion Forum
- Human Rights Center Uganda
- Human Rights Network for Journalists – Uganda
- Human Rights Network Uganda
- Legal Aid Service Providers Network
- National Coalition of Human Rights Defenders – Uganda
- Sexual Minorities Uganda
Adrian JJuuko, executive director of HRAPF, said:
“Tomorrow is the send off for Emmanuel who was killed in the attack and HRAPF will join his family, relatives and employers to give him a befitting send off for he indeed died protecting the organisation and despite being deployed by a private security company, he had become a member of the HRAPF family.”
He also said:
“We thank all the organisations to which we belong as members: LASPNET, HURINET and the Uganda National NGO Forum for their support during this time. We also thank sister organisations that have supported us since this begun and we thank our international partners and the diplomatic community for their continued support. We shall continue with our work as always despite the setbacks.”
Jjuuko said that no irreplaceable documents were stolen.
- Pics of Suspects in Ugandan Human Rights Office Murder and Robbery (May 22, 2016, O-blog-dee)
- Archive of this blog’s articles about HRAPF