The Center on Democracy, Development and the Rule of Law expresses its grave concern over the politically motivated arrests of our 2019 Draper Hills Summer Fellow, Nicholas Opiyo, and four other Ugandan human rights lawyers and defenders: Herbert Dasaki, Esomu Obure, Anthony Odur and Hamid Tenywa.
These arrests are only the latest abuse in what Amnesty International has termed "a wave of human rights violations," including attacks on journalists and other arbitrary arrests and detentions, in the runup to the January 14, 2021 national elections. We further protest the surreptitious manner in which these individuals were apprehended--which African Defenders describes as "tantamount to an abduction"--and other violations of due process, including their lack of access to lawyers, family, and personal medicines. We stress that Nicholas Opiyo is a widely admired human rights defender of exceptional integrity and courage, who has sought to scrupulously comply (and promote compliance) with Uganda's money laundering laws, which he is reportedly about to be charged with violating.
We urge the governments of the United States and other democracies to call on the Government of Uganda to 1) immediately and unconditionally release Mr. Opiyo and his four fellow detainees; 2) ensure these individuals and other detainees full rights of due process, including access to lawyers and family; and 3) cease the current campaign of arbitrary harassment and detention of Ugandan citizens and NGOs in retaliation for the peaceful exercise of their civil and political rights. We also appeal to the donor community to make clear to Uganda's government the consequences that these abuses could have for aid and diplomatic relationships and Uganda's international standing.