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Uganda: Continued police harassment of human rights defenders of the Twerwaneho Listeners Radio Club
On 19 October 2012, human rights defender Mr Gerald Kankya, Coordinator of the Twerwaneho Listeners Radio Club (TLC), received a verbal summons from a local officer from the Fort Portal Criminal Investigation Directorate (CID) to appear at the station the same day, in what appears to be a continued campaign of harassment and intimidation against TLC.
TLC is a non-governmental organisation based in Fort Portal, in Uganda's Western region, that carries out human rights advocacy in various ways, including radio programs and human rights monitoring. Since 2006, it has been working on unlawful evictions from public community land. TLC radio programs generally focus on human rights issues with a view to holding public leaders more accountable.
Gerald Kankya refused to present himself on 19 October 2012 in the absence of a written summons. Both himself and many other TLC members have repeatedly been summoned before on Fridays; it is suspected that the goal of this is to keep the human rights defenders detained over the weekend by denying them the chance to apply for bail until the following Monday. On 16 October 2012, Mr Joram Bintamanya and Mr Gilbert Kayondo, both members of TLC, also presented themselves at the Fort Portal CID station in response to a summons, but were denied the opportunity to record statements. Two days previously, the police had taken a statement from the organisation's lawyer Mr Victor Businge. A fourth member of TLC, Mr Prosper Businge has also received a summons to report to the police, as well as four other staff members of TLC who reported to the police to give statements on 10 October 2012.
On 2 October 2012, Gerald Kankya had already appeared before the regional CID for interrogation on criminal allegations pertaining to “incitement to violence” and “sectarianism”, together with fellow TLC members Mr Ronald Kaguma, Mr Herbert Mugisa and Mr Joseph Mashuhuko. During this interrogation, the police focused on the defenders' advocacy work relating to illegal evictions. As the interrogation proceeded, it appeared to the TLC defenders that police had in the meantime compelled one radio station that works together with TLC on the production of its radio programs, Better FM, to surrender recordings of all TLC programs aired since 13 September 2012, while another station, Voice of Toro, was reportedly approached as well.
Since 2006, TLC has been working on the issue of evictions from community land and the allegedly unlawful transfer of property over community land from the Tooro Kingdom to the government. Recently, TLC accused the Queen Mother, Ms Best Kemigisa, of direct involvement in the eviction of local people who occupy the land she claims to be the property of the Tooro Kingdom. On 13 September 2012, the Queen Mother conducted a major operation to evict one of the local residents, escorted by elements of the Uganda People's Defence Forces (Uganda's armed forces). In response, TLC intensified its denunciations highlighting the improper use of government forces in violating human rights. The police is reportedly building a criminal case against the TLC members, suggesting that their denunciations are aimed at inciting the local population to rise against the Tooro Kingdom, a major cultural institution in the region.
In response to the continuous harassment against its members at the hands of the local authorities, there is currently a case pending in which TLC has sued the state for false imprisonment and malicious prosecution. Some of the events include an incident in April 2010, when three of the above mentioned members of TLC, Mr Joram Bintamanya, Mr Prosper Businge and Mr Gerald Kankya, were arrested after making critical comments on local radio about the authorities' failure to properly investigate a suspected murder and abuses committed by the Ugandan People's Defence Forces. In January 2010 one of the founders and member of the Board of Directors of TLC, Mr Daniel Rubombora, was charged with criminal destruction of property after being detained for two weeks.