Case HIstory: Moses Omiat
On 14 May 2014, human rights defenders and colleagues Mr Moses Omiat and Ms Monica Apilo remain confined to their respective homes for the seventh consecutive day since unidentified armed men came to their offices in an attempt to attack them. Two days before, police protection provided at the homes of the human rights defenders was removed without explanation and no progress has been made in identifying the attackers.
Moses Omiat is the coordinator for the Soroti Development Association & NGOs Network (SODANN). SODANN is a human rights organisation founded in 1994 to facilitate the creation of a collective voice of civil society organisations in Eastern Uganda. SODANN has a particular focus on transitional justice and land rights.
On 17 October 2015, the offices of Soroti Development Association and NGOs Network (SODANN) were broken into by unidentified individuals who took several items with them, including documents reporting on human rights violations.
On 18 October 2015 Mr Omiat Moses, the coordinator of SODANN, received a phone call from one of the organisation's employees informing him that the organisation's offices had been broken into and the office garage door was open. Mr Moses immediately informed Soroti's Central Police Station (CPS) about the incident and the Officer Commanding of the Criminal Investigation Department (OC/CID) was sent to SODANN's office to investigate the robbery.
After breaking a ventilator with bricks, the burglars entered the office through the kitchen and unlocked both the garage and front door - the damaged padlock was found in the premises. It is believed that this was a targeted attack to undermine SODANN's activities as one of the few rooms that were broken into and raided was the Human Rights Complaints office, where the organisation keeps all its documents and reports on human rights violations. As a result of the break-in several sensitive documents were stolen along with computers and its accessories, CCTV cameras, power stabilisers, adaptors, cables and printers.
It is not the first time that the organisation or its members have been targeted. In May 2014 an unidentified armed men came to SODANN's offices in an attempt to attack human rights defenders Mr Omiat Moses and Ms Monica Apilo, SODANN's programme assistant.
In recent weeks, unidentified men have repeatedly broken into SODANN office premises late at night. Moreover, an unknown man trespassed at the private home of SODANN's coordinator.
The motive of these individuals remains unknown. These incidents follow an attempted gun attack on SODANN staff on 7 May 2014.
Following an attempted gun attack on Mr Moses Omiat and Ms Monica Apilo, respectively SODANN coordinator and SODANN programme assistant in charge of capacity building and transitional justice, police protection had been granted at their homes by the Soroti District Police Commander on 8 May 2014. It was agreed that a policeman would guard the houses during the investigation into the attempted gun attack of 7 May 2014. However, police protection was removed without explanation on 12 May 2014.
On 2 June 2014 at approximately 6pm, an unknown man climbed the perimeter wall of Moses Omiat's private residence. The man fled when he was seen. Since this incident, Moses Omiat has vacated his home, returning only briefly on 7 July 2014 to assess the situation.
On 8 July 2014 between 10pm and 11pm, three unknown men trespassed through the barbed wire fence surrounding the SODANN offices and entered the adjacent building, which has been under construction. The men were reportedly carrying an unidentified object. Upon seeing the trespassers, a SODANN staff member called to inform a police officer.
On 9 July 2014 between 11pm and midnight, a SODANN staff member saw two men again trespassing into the same adjacent building. They were carrying a container. When he flashed a torch at them, the two men fled. Their motive remains unknown. SODANN staff again notified the police, and an officer came to the scene to inspect the barbed wire fencing.
No suspects have been arrested in connection to any of the incidents targeting SODANN staff. A regional police officer visited the SODANN offices on 11 July 2014 and found one of the barbed wire poles removed. A member of staff in the SODANN offices has since reported the matter again to the Soroti Central Station.
Since 2013, SODANN and its staff have also faced numerous threats via anonymous phone calls and indirectly through law enforcement agents.
On 14 May 2014, human rights defenders and colleagues Mr Moses Omiat and Ms Monica Apilo remain confined to their respective homes for the seventh consecutive day since unidentified armed men came to their offices in an attempt to attack them.
Two days before, police protection provided at the homes of the human rights defenders was removed without explanation and no progress has been made in identifying the attackers.
The two human rights defenders have been advised by the police not to leave their residences since an attempted attack on 7 May 2014. The police protection granted to Moses Omiat and Monica Apilo at their homes by the Soroti District Police Commander on 8 May 2014 was removed on 12 May 2014 without explanation. It had been agreed that a policeman would guard the houses during the investigation.
On the afternoon of 7 May 2014, two unidentified men came to SODANN's offices and asked the volunteer at reception for the location of the coordinator, Moses Omiat. When the volunteer did not provide the information, the attackers demanded to see Monica Apilo, but the volunteer stated that neither of the human rights defenders had been in the office for some time. The men became angry, stated that the volunteer was lying, and one of the men pulled a SMG gun from a bag he was carrying. The attackers ordered the volunteer to lay his head on a table and to close his eyes. The gun was pointed at the volunteer's head, but when he still failed to provide the whereabouts of the human rights defenders, the men left on a motorbike. At the time of the attack, Moses Omiat and Monica Apilo were approximately 300m from the office, leading a workshop organised by SODANN. It is believed the assailants had no knowledge of the workshop.
The local police were immediately notified of the incident. They came to SODANN's offices, interviewed the witnesses, and a formal complaint for “threatening violence” was entered against “unknown suspects.” At approximately 6pm that evening, another man on a motorbike arrived at the SODANN office claiming that he had been sent to pick up an old woman there. Police officers, who were still present, ordered the man to take them to see the person who had sent him. However, when the police went to search for that man, he could not be found.
SODANN reports that, since November 2013, it has been the victim of various threats, including threatening anonymous telephone calls, break-ins at the homes of staff, and thefts targeting its offices. SODANN has reported most of the incidents, but the threats continue.