Uganda: East African Lawyers Rap Uganda Over Rights Abuse

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Arusha — The East African Law Society (EALS) Monday castigated the Ugandan government over what they described as increased and systematic violence targeting persons perceived to be political opponents.

The society says that the ongoing clampdown against civil rights protestors was a flagrant violation of the rule of law and disrespect of fundamental human rights and freedoms and Uganda's obligations to the East African Community (EAC).

"The partner states to the Treaty establishing the EAC have undertaken to observe the rule of law and human rights", Mr Richard Mugisha, the president of the society said in a statement released in Arusha on Monday.

He added that the reported violence and claims of unfair treatment accorded to the political detainees, unless abated forthwith, risked negating every good gain that Uganda has made in promoting regional integration.

Uganda has witnessed episodes of political violence in recent days, more so following a by-election in Arua where an independent candidate won the hotly-contested parliamentary seat.

The situation became tenser when a vehicle in President Yoweri Museveni's convoy, according to police, was stoned in Arua on the final day of the by-election campaign rallies.

Four MPs, an ex-legislator and the eventual winner of the by-election, Mr Kassiano Wadri were arrested and remain in custody. Some of them alongside detained two-dozen civilians were brutalised, relative and lawyers said.

EALS, a premier bar association in the region with an observer status to the East African Community, said some of the detainees have been subjected to cruel and inhuman treatment as well as denied medical services.

"These reports are horrifying and a matter of grave concern to every being of conscience. Worse still, the detainees have been denied legal representation of their choice contrary to the norm in a fair trial process", Mr Mugisha said.

The body called on the Uganda government to forthwith take steps to forestall further human rights violations "and to ensure that the detainees are granted all freedoms and rights appropriate to their attainment of fair trial".

The EAC Heads of States were urged to implore the Ugandan leader, Mr Museveni "to take appropriate steps to end the human rights violations that now threaten the integrity and the future of the EAC".

Meanwhile, Mr Fred Mukasa Mbidde, a Ugandan East Africa Legislative Assembly member has said that he will table a motion before the East African Parliament about the torture and oppression of opposition politicians in Uganda because being an Opposition leader or supporter in Uganda is "slowly becoming criminal".

Mr Mbidde told journalists in Masaka town on Monday that he cannot sit back and watch as Ugandans whose government is a member of EAC is "torturing and harassing citizens".

"We are living in panic after what happened to Hon. Kyagulanyi. I personally fear to relate with security personnel because I fear that they may plant a gun in my office as they did to Bobi Wine," he said.

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