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UN human rights experts* today called on the Government of Uganda to immediately stop the brutal crackdown on its political opponents which began in the lead-up to January's disputed general elections and continues to suppress opposition supporters.
“We are particularly alarmed by the reports of widespread and continued repression against opposition leaders and their supporters,” the experts said. “More than 50 people have been killed as a result of the brutal policing methods, including the use of live ammunition fired without warning, and at least 20 others have lost their lives in incidents linked to the electoral context.”
They urged the authorities to immediately and thoroughly investigate and prosecute all human rights violations, including allegations of extrajudicial killings, arbitrary arrest and detention, enforced disappearance, torture and ill treatment, deprivation of due process of law and assault on freedom of expression and peaceful assembly.
Several thousand people have been arrested and while some have been released, others have allegedly been tortured before appearing in military courts, the experts said. Relatives of others often do not know their fate or whereabouts. “It is outrageous that those who are requesting information about their forcibly disappeared relatives are further subjected to reprisals and arrest,” the independent experts said.
“We are urging the Government of Uganda to take all necessary measures to immediately stop the concealing of information concerning individuals arrested in the context of the general elections, a practice amounting to enforced disappearance, and reveal their fate and whereabouts.
“The arbitrary house arrest between 14 and 25 January 2021 of the prominent opposition leader known as Bobi Wine (Mr. Kyagulanyi), which a High Court ruled to be unconstitutional, is symptomatic of the flagrant suppression tactics of the opposition and the absence of due process of law,” the experts said.
Opposition leaders and their supporters have protested against alleged electoral irregularities and the prohibition of gatherings under the guise of preventing the spread of the COVID-19 virus. The massive deployment of armed forces in cities, as well as the intimidation and attacks of opposition observers at polling stations, reportedly affected voter turnout; while the interruption of internet services slowed the voting process and affected counting.
“The curtailing of freedom of press and media, the intimidation, ill-treatment and assaults of journalists covering the elections and especially the opposition is simply unacceptable. The Government must provide immediate remedies and reparation to all the victims,” the experts said.