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Uganda: Freezing of Twerwaneho Listeners Club's bank accounts
On 15 March 2013, the Twerwaneho Listeners Club (TLC) reported that its bank accounts were frozen, following an order issued by the regional criminal investigation police department in Fort Portal.
TLC is a non-governmental organisation based in Fort Portal which carries out human rights work. It produces radio programmes with a focus on human rights issues with a view to holding public leaders accountable, while since 2006, the organisation has also been campaigning against unlawful evictions.
On the morning of 15 March 2013, TLC representatives attempted to conduct transactions at two banks where TLC holds accounts, but were unable to do so, reportedly due to a letter sent to the banks by regional police ordering the freezing of their accounts. The order was sent by police despite Ugandan law stipulating that the courts are the only power authorised to order the freezing of bank accounts, while TLC is not aware of any such court order in place.
It is feared that if the freezing continues, TLC will be unable to conduct its normal activities. TLC's lawyer has advised that, under Ugandan law, bank accounts can be frozen only upon a judicial finding that the owner of the accounts is guilty of “funding terrorism, rebellious acts or money laundering.” As no such finding exists in the case of TLC, the organisation is undertaking to challenge the police order in court.
Front Line Defenders has issued a number of urgent appeals and updates on instances of police harassment of TLC, dated 23 January 2013, 24 January 2013, 23 October 2012,29 October 2010, 8 September 2010, 7 May 2010, and 23 July 2009.
In January 2013, three TLC staff members were detained and accused of making defamatory statements against Uganda's First Family. They were released two days later following a decision by the Public Prosecutor that no evidence existed. However, they were informed by police that new charges would be brought against them, namely inciting violence and disseminating harmful propaganda as well as charges related to funding and the operation of TLC's programmes. TLC believes that the unlawful freezing of its bank accounts may be related to these charges.
Front Line Defenders expresses concern at the freezing of TLC's bank accounts, and believes this act to form part of the continued police harassment against the organisation, by attempting to disrupt the organisation's legitimate and peaceful human rights activities in the Fort Portal area.