Hivos strongly condemns the violent break-in at the Human Rights Awareness and Promotion Forum (HRAPF) offices on 22 May 2016, during which the guard on duty was beaten to death. Attacks against human rights organizations in Uganda are increasing and particularly seem to target those that defend the rights of socially and economically excluded people. Hivos is deeply concerned about the impact of these systematic attacks and calls for an impartial investigation.
HRAPF contributes to legislative and policy reforms to ensure that all individuals are treated equally, to increase accountability for human rights violations and to advance human rights. Since valuables like laptops were untouched and only paper files were taken, it seems to be an attack directed against the organization, its people and its work, with the intention to instil fear.
Ugandan government responsibility
Hivos is deeply concerned about the impact of these intimidations and systematic attacks that lead to widespread suppression of open debate and deter these organizations from advocating for certain public interest issues. We are also concerned by the fact that similar cases remain unresolved. While the state should be accountable to its people, as enshrined in the Constitution of the Republic of Uganda, in practice it often responds to such situations in a rapid, reactive manner by imposing unjustifiable or disproportionate restrictions on freedom of expression. This leads its citizens to mistrust the capacity and willingness of state institutions to protect them and their human rights. We wish to reiterate that the state has the responsibility to protect the human rights of all citizens.
Call for justice
Hivos urges the Ugandan Government to conduct prompt and impartial investigation of both this case, as well as previous cases, to identify the individuals who committed these crimes and the possible structures behind them, and to bring them before a court of law.
Uganda will be reviewed by the Universal Periodic Review (UPR) mechanism of the UN Human Rights Council in October/November 2016. During its review in October 2011, the Republic of Uganda accepted a number of recommendations pertaining to its legal framework. Uganda agreed to amend all laws that are contrary to its national and international obligations in order to respect, protect and promote the rights of its citizens. However, we note with concern that there have been instances where the state, through its legislative arm, has enacted laws that limit the space for the enjoyment of rights.
In solidarity with all civil society organizations that defend and promote human rights, we shall continue to lobby and advocate for the protection of civil and political rights, which include the right to life, liberty and personal security, as well as the rights to free speech, movement and privacy.
We join the East African civil society community in urging the government of Uganda to end the impunity witnessed in the recent wave of violent office break-ins targeting human rights organizations and human right defenders. We maintain our commitment to continue to build citizen agency, to demand accountability of governments, and to put an end to human rights violations in Uganda.