Uganda: UN concerned over arrests of opposition leaders, use of force since elections

A marketplace in Kampala, Uganda. Photo: World Bank/Arne Hoel

23 February 2016 – The United Nations human rights office expressed concern today over the “tense” post-election situation in Uganda, following reports that at least two people have been killed and an unknown number of people injured, heavy military and police forces deployed in the streets of Kampala, and the arrests of four opposition leaders since Thursday’s elections.

Office of the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR) spokesperson Cécile Pouilly told the regular news briefing in Geneva today that the Office is also concerned about the “intimidating display of force” used this past Friday by Ugandan police and military forces to evacuate the Forum for Democratic Change (FDC) headquarters in Kampala, with tear gas and life ammunition reportedly used, as well as by worrying information of journalists being harassed and intimidated by security forces.

“We remind the Government of Uganda of its obligations under international human rights law not to unduly restrict freedom of expression and peaceful assembly,” said Ms. Pouilly.

“Law enforcement officials shall avoid the use of force or, when that is not possible, restrict it to the minimum extent necessary. Anyone who is arrested shall be informed of the reasons for the arrest and shall be promptly informed of any charges against him or her,” she added.

The FDC’s leader, Kizza Besigye, who was arrested and released on three different occasions this past week, was placed under house arrest on Saturday without charge or judicial order. Yesterday morning, he was taken to a police station in Nagalaama, a town located some 30 kilometres from the capital city of Kampala, after he tried to leave his home, the OHCHR spokesperson said.

Two other presidential candidates have also been reportedly arrested over the past few days. Amama Mbabazi, from the Go Forward party, has been under house arrest since Saturday, while Abed Bwanika, President of the People’s Development Party, was reportedly intercepted by police on Friday at Mutukula, close to the border with Tanzania, as he was attempting to leave the country with his family. Kampala’s Lord Mayor, Erias Lukwago, was also arrested on Saturday, as he was talking to the press about Mr Besigye’s arrest.


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