Uganda: Administrative harassment faced by several NGOs

20/10/2017
Urgent Appeal

New information
UGA 003 / 1017 / OBS 108

Assets freeze /
Restriction to freedom of association /
Harassment
Uganda
October 20, 2017

The Observatory for the Protection of Human Rights Defenders, a partnership of FIDH and the World Organisation Against Torture (OMCT), requests your urgent intervention in the following situation in Uganda.

New information:

The Observatory has been informed by reliable sources about the administrative harassment faced by several NGOs that have challenged a constitutional amendment to lift presidential age limit to allow President Yoweri Museveni, 73, to run for another term in 2021.

According to the information received, on October 4, 2017, Mr. Arthur Larok, Country Director, and Mr. Bruno Ssemaganda, Head of Finance of ActionAid Uganda (AAU) [1], were summoned to appear before the Criminal Investigation Directorate (CID) on October 6, 2017, following a search of their premises on September 20, 2017 (see background information). They were both further interrogated by the CID on October 10, 2017, although no charges have yet been leveled against them.

On October 13, 2017, the Deputy Governor of the Bank of Uganda ordered the freezing of the five accounts held by AAU, because of the investigation the CID is conducting against the organisation under allegations of “conspiracy to commit a felony” and “money laundering”.

In addition, on October 11, 2017, the Ministry of Internal Affairs requested 27 NGOs to submit specific ‘financial information’ to the NGO Bureau within a week. The information requested include bank statements of the organisations over the past three years, annual reports clearly stating activities and sources of funds from 2014 to 2016, all bank account numbers and lists of directors and executive directors. The list of organisations includes several NGOS engaged in human rights, humanitarian and development work: AAU, African Field Epidemiology Network (AFENET), Agency for Technical Cooperation and Development (ACTED), Association of Human Rights Organisations in Uganda, Be Forward Uganda, Citizens Coalition for Electoral Democracy in Uganda (CCEDU), Civil Society Budget Advocacy Group (CSBAG), Development Network for Indigenous Voluntary Associations (DENIVA), Educate Uganda, Feed the Children Uganda, Finnish Refugee Council, Ford Foundation, Foundation for Human Rights Initiative (FHRI), Forum for Women in Democracy (FOWODE), Global Refuge International Uganda, Great Lakes Institute for Strategic Studies (GLISS), Good Neighbours, Human Rights Centre Uganda (HRCU), Human Rights Network (HURINET), Mercy Corps, MIFUMI, Solidarity Uganda, Synagogue Church of All Nations, Teso Anti-Corruption Coalition, Uganda National NGO Forum (UNNGOF), Uganda Youth Network (UYONET) and Uhuru Institute for Social Development.

Following the publication of the list, on October 14, 2017, State Minister for Internal Affairs, Mr. Obiga Kania, told the press that “in fact they (the NGOs listed) should be closed until they submit their financial information”.

The Observatory condemn these acts of harassment against the above-mentioned defenders and NGOs, which occur as several of them have been critical of the constitutional amendment to lift presidential age limit, and calls upon Ugandan authorities to ensure immediately and unconditionally that they can carry out their legitimate human rights activities without hindrances.

Background information [2]:

On September 20, 2017, police raided the premises of AAU and Great Lakes Institute for Strategic Studies (GLISS) [3] in Kampala as well as the house of GLISS Executive Director, Mr. Godbar Tumushabe.

Search warrants included allegations of “illicit transfer of funds for funding unlawful activities”. AAU premises were sealed off and several documents, electronic equipment and bank related documents were seized from both organisations. Searches were carried out overnight until the next day at both organisations and were supposed to resume at AAU premises on September 25, 2017 at 10:00 am. However, to date no further searches have taken place and AAU’s premises are no longer sealed off.

Actions requested:

Please write to the authorities in Uganda asking them to:

Guarantee in all circumstances the freedom of association of ActionAid Uganda by immediately and unconditionally lifting the assets freeze imposed against the NGO, s as it only aims at sanctioning its legitimate and peaceful human rights activities;

Put an end to all forms of harassment - including at the administrative and judicial level - against the above-mentioned NGOs as well as against all human rights defenders in Uganda and ensure in all circumstance that they are able to carry out their legitimate activities without any hindrance and fear of reprisals;

Conform to the provisions of the UN Declaration on Human Rights Defenders, adopted by the General Assembly of the United Nations on December 9, 1998, in particular with its Articles 1, and 12.2;

Ensure in all circumstances respect for human rights and fundamental freedoms in accordance with international human rights standards and international instruments ratified by Uganda.

Addresses:

• President Kaguta Yoweri Museveni, President of the Republic of Uganda, Fax: +256 (0) 414 436 102 / + 256 41 4235459 / +256 41 4344012. E-mail: museveni@starcom.co.ug / aak@statehouse.go.ug
• Mr. Obija Kania, State Minister for Internal Affairs, Fax: + 256 414343088
• Mr. William Byaruhanga, Attorney General, and Hon. Kahinda Otafiire, Minister of Justice and Constitutional Affairs of Uganda, Fax: + 256 41 4250829. E-Mail: mojca@africaonline.co.ug
• Mr. Mike Chibita, Director of Public Prosecutions, Ministry of Justice and Constitutional Affairs of Uganda, Fax: +256-414-258-565/341-316, Email: admin@dpp.go.ug
• Mr. Med Kaggwa, Chairperson, Uganda Human Rights Commission, Email: uhrc@uhrc.ug Telephone: +256414348007
• Gen. Kale Kayihura, Inspector General of Police, Telephone: +256 (0) 712 755 999
• H.E. Christopher Onyanga Aparr, Permanent Mission of Uganda to the United Nations in Geneva, Switzerland. Fax: + 41 22 340 70 30. Email: mission.uganda@ties.itu.int
• H.E. Mirjam Blaak Sow, Embassy of Uganda to the EU in Brussels, Belgium. Fax: + 32 2.763.04.38. Email: ugembrus@brutele.be, info@ugandamission-benelux.org

Please also write to the diplomatic mission or embassy of Uganda in your respective country

***
Paris-Geneva, October 20, 2017

Kindly inform us of any action undertaken quoting the code of this appeal in your reply.

The Observatory for the Protection of Human Rights Defenders (the Observatory) was created in 1997 by FIDH and OMCT. The objective of this programme is to prevent or remedy situations of repression against human rights defenders. FIDH and OMCT are both members of ProtectDefenders.eu, the European Union Human Rights Defenders Mechanism implemented by international civil society.

To contact the Observatory, call the emergency line:
· Email: Appeals@fidh-omct.org
· Tel and fax FIDH: + 33 (0) 1 43 55 25 18 / +33 1 43 55 18 80
· Tel and fax OMCT: + 41 (0) 22 809 49 39 / + 41 22 809 49 29

Read more
appelobs