Posted 2013/2/7

Uganda: Nine anti-corruption campaigners arrested and charged with inciting violence

Bishop Zac Niringiye was one of the human rights defenders arrested

On 4 February 2013, police arrested nine human rights defenders who work on anti-corruption issues and detained them for several hours, before presenting charges of incitement of violence and releasing them on bail. The arrested individuals were Bishop Zac Niringiye, Mr Emmanuel Kitamirike, Mr Nuwagaba, Mr Brian Atuhaire, Mr Asani Kyegula, Mr Ismael Sebide, Mr Allan Kitonsa, Mr John Andyagasha and Mr Issa Kinyonyi.

The arrests followed their distribution of anti-corruption materials on a university campus. Each of the human rights defenders are affiliated with the 'Black Monday Movement', which brings together several of Uganda's civil society groups in concerted action to fight entrenched corruption in the country.

On the morning of 4 February 2013, the nine anti-corruption campaigners were on Makerere University campus distributing copies of a new issue of 'Black Monday,' the movement's newsletter highlighting issues of corruption in Uganda, when local police mounted an operation to disrupt their initiative and to arrest them.

They were immediately taken to Wandegeya police station, Kampala, where they were detained. Police reportedly considered the initiative as an act of illegal assembly that could interfere with traffic and business; and the newsletter as harmful material that could incite violence. It is reported that the nine campaigners were told that they were being held over allegations of “inciting violence”. They spent approximately seven hours in a police cell before being released on bail.

The human rights defenders had chosen to distribute at Makerere University, Uganda's oldest and best-established institution of higher eduction, because the February issue targeted youth for the purposes of raising their awareness on corruption issues in Uganda.

Members of the Black Monday Movement report that this is the third disruption of their events by police since the launch of their movement in November 2012.

On 5 February, the Deputy Inspector General of Police, Mr John Martins Okoth-Ochola, held a meeting with delegates of organisations participating in the Black Monday Movement. The meeting reportedly discussed ways in which future initiatives by the Movement could go smoothly. Following concerns by the police that certain political spheres might want to hijack and use the movement for other purposes, those in the meeting reportedly agreed to safeguard the apolitical nature of the movement by excluding politicians from participation; and also reportedly agreed to get their Black Monday newsletter licensed before future circulations.

In late 2012, several European Union donors froze their aid to Uganda protesting against the rise of corruption scandals in the country, and in particular, the embezzlement of substantial donor funds by the office of Uganda's Prime Minister.

Front Line Defenders expresses serious concern at the arrest and charging of the aforementioned individuals, as well as the continued disruption of Black Monday Movement events. Front Line Defenders believes these acts to be solely motivated by the individuals' legitimate work to fight against corruption in Uganda, and views their arrest and charging as incompatible with the rights to freedom of association and freedom of peaceful assembly, as guaranteed under international law.

Action Update Needed. Before taking further action on this case please contact info@frontlinedefenders.org for further information