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Uganda: Civil Society Seeks Independent Inquiry Into April Killings

Broad Coalition Presses President for Invitation to UN Special Rapporteur

(Kampala) - Ugandan President Yoweri Museveni should ensure independent and transparent investigations into killings which occurred during the "Walk to Work" protests and hold security forces accountable, a coalition of 105 human rights, media, and development organizations said in a letter to the president today. The coalition, including civil society groups from every corner of Uganda, urged the president to invite the United Nations Special Rapporteur on extrajudicial, summary, or arbitrary executions.

During the April 2011 protests over the rising costs of commodities and the arrest of opposition leaders, police and military responded to protesters with live ammunition in Kampala, Gulu, Mbale, and Masaka, leaving at least nine unarmed people dead. The known circumstances of the deaths to date indicate that the use of lethal force was unnecessary and unjustified. The government has arrested hundreds of protesters and put significant resources into investigating alleged acts of looting, arson, and destruction of property, but little effort has gone into investigating killings by security forces, the groups said.

Some government officials have contended that those killed were violent protesters. One victim's family was told at the morgue that they were not permitted to retrieve the body because "all these people died while attempting to overthrow the government."

"Blaming the victims is a weak ploy to distract attention from the actions of the security forces," said Arthur Larok of the Uganda National NGO Forum. "The government needs to determine what really happened and to make sure that those responsible are held responsible."

One police officer has been arrested in the shooting of 2-year-old Julian Nalwanga by police in Masaka. In a May 17 opinion article by Museveni in several Ugandan newspapers, he referred to the shooting as a "criminal killing." The government has said the police officer will face trial before military courts, despite a 2009 ruling by the Constitutional Court barring prosecution of civilians before military jurisdictions. No one else has been arrested in connection with the other deaths of unarmed civilians.

Impunity for serious crimes by members of the security forces, especially during political demonstrations, persists in Uganda,  the coalition, which includes 95 Ugandan organizations, said. Ugandan law guarantees the right to free assembly, speech, and association, but in practice the government has often responded to the exercise of these rights with firearms and lethal force.

In September 2009, at least 40 people were killed by security forces during two days of protests in Kampala after the authorities sought to restrict the movement of Ronald Muwenda Mutebi II, the cultural leader of the Buganda ethnic group. Human Rights Watch documented numerous instances in which unarmed protesters and bystanders died after police and military police used live ammunition to scare people off the streets or shot into people's homes. Despite numerous commitments by government ministers and Uganda's parliament to investigate those events, no one has been held accountable for those killings, and the police and soldiers responsible have never been punished.

"We have seen the government promise investigations before, but in the end, nothing happens and perpetrators remain in active service," said Maria Burnett, senior Africa researcher at Human Rights Watch. "The president should show that things will be different this time and listen to civil society by ensuring an independent investigation with international expertise."

The groups also called upon Uganda, as a member of the United Nations Human Rights Council, to cooperate fully with the UN Special Rapporteur on extrajudicial, summary, or arbitrary executions, and the Special Rapporteur on freedom of opinion and expression and invite these international experts to Uganda. In 1986 Museveni's government extended an invitation and was host to the Special Rapporteur on extrajudicial, summary, or arbitrary executions. Uganda should issue standing invitations to all special rapporteurs and UN working groups to visit Uganda, the groups said. This engagement with the UN would facilitate the necessary investigations and help ensure present and future accountability.

"An invitation to the Special Rapporteurs would demonstrate that Uganda is committed to rule of law and understands the importance of accountability," said Mohammed Ndifuna, chief executive officer at HURINET-Uganda. "It is time for the government to stop ignoring killings during demonstrations."

The Ugandan NGO, Individual, and Union Sign Ons:

  1. Human Rights Network (HURINET-U), Kampala
  2. National NGO Forum, Kampala
  3. Foundation for Human Rights Initiative (FHRI), Kampala
  4. MAYANK Anti-Corruption Coalition, Moyo, Adjumani, Yumbe, Arua, Nebbi and Koboko
  5. Human Rights Focus (HURIFO), Gulu
  6. Uganda Youth Network, Kampala
  7. African Network for the Prevention and Protection against Child Abuse and Neglect (ANPPCAN), Kampala
  8. Stella Mukasa, Kampala
  9. Pallisa Civil Society Organizations' Network (PACONET), Pallisa
  10. East and Horn of Africa Human Rights Defenders Project, Kampala
  11. Livelihoods Improvement Programme (LIPRO) Uganda
  12. Rushenyi Youths Peace for Nature, Ntungamo
  13. Advocates for Public International Law in Uganda (APILU), Kampala
  14. Community Development Resource Network (CDRN), Kampala
  15. Western Ankole Civil Society Forum (WACSOF), Ankole
  16. Coalition of Private Schools Teachers Association (COUPSTA), Kampala
  17. Recreation and Development Programme (RDP), Masindi
  18. Uganda Governance Monitoring Platform, Kampala
  19. Peter Wandera, Development Network of Indigenous Voluntary Assocations ( DENIVA), Kampala
  20. Ahmed Wetaka, Mbale
  21. Aggrey Mugisha, Chairman, Uganda National Civic Education Consortium (UNACO), Kampala
  22. Katushabe Edrine, Kabale
  23. Mugamba Ronald Kakembo, Human Rights Centre Uganda, Kampala
  24. Flavia Zalwango, Human Rights Awareness and Promotion Forum Uganda (HRAPF), Nakulabye, Kampala
  25. Angel Valeria, Member, Citizen Coalition for Electoral Democracy in Uganda (CCEDU), Kampala
  26. Sydey Etima-Ojara, Programme Officer, Democratic Accountability, Democratic Governance and Accountability Programme (DGAP), Kampala
  27. Human Rights Target (HRT), Luwero
  28. Youth Revival Association (YRA), Kampala
  29. Kasubi Community Development Association (KAKODA), Wakiso
  30. Kalangala Human Rights Defenders (KHRD), Kalangala
  31. Bukoggolwa Widows and Orphans Care Centre (BWOCC), Mpigi
  32. Pastoral Women Alliance to Break Cultural Chains (PWABC), Kiboga
  33. Action for Human Rights and Civic Awareness (AHURICA), Kayunga
  34. Lira Women Peace Initiative (LIWEPI), Lira
  35. Human Rights and Paralegal Services (HUPAS), Busia
  36. Rashid Bunya, Member, Citizen Coalition for Electoral Democracy in Uganda (CCEDU ), Kibuli, Kampala
  37. The Uganda Parliamentary Press Association, Kampala
  38. The Human Rights Network for Journalists, Kampala
  39. Northern Uganda Journalist Press Association, Gulu
  40. Eastern Uganda Journalists Press Association, Busia
  41. Kabale Journalists Press Association, Kabale
  42. Action for Human Rights and Civic Awareness, Kayunga, Mukono
  43. Rwenzori Peace Bridge for Reconciliation, Kasese
  44. Gomba Paralegals Association, Gomba, Butambala
  45. National Human Rights Association of Uganda, Mbale
  46. Crispy Kaheru, National Coordinator, Citizen Coalition for Electoral Democracy in Uganda (CCEDU), Kampala
  47. Janet Tuhirwe, Bushenyi
  48. Jenga Afrika, Kampala
  49. International Anti Corruption Theatre Movement (IATM), Kampala
  50. Nakaweesi Solome Kimbugwe- Independent Consultant and Feminist Activist, Kampala
  51. Hope after Rape, Kampala
  52. Platform for Labor Action, Kampala
  53. Rehabilitation Centre for Victims of Domestic and Sexual Violence (RECESVID), Kampala
  54. Enid Wamani, Kampala
  55. Uganda Health & Science Press Association (UHSPA), Kampala
  56. Western Ankole Civil Society Forum - WACSOF (Bushenyi, Sheema, Buhweju, Rubirizi and Mitooma Districts)
  57. Twerwaneho Listeners Club, Fort Portal
  58. Human Rights Network for Journalists, Kampala
  59. Global Rights Alert, Kampala
  60. Soroti Development Association & NGOs Network (SODANN), Soroti
  61. Support Initiative for People with atypical sex Development (SIPD), Kampala
  62. Justice and Reconciliation Project, Gulu
  63. Mathias Mangeni, Coordinator, Human Rights Paralegal Advisory Services, Kampala
  64. Public Affairs Centre of Uganda (PAC Uganda), Soroti
  65. ‘Kapchorwa Civil Society Organizations' Alliance (KACSOA), Kapchorwa
  66. Coalition of Private Schools Teachers' Association (COUPSTA), Kampala
  67. Community Development and Welfare Initiatives (CODI), Luwero
  68. Facilitation for Peace and Development, Lira
  69. Mid-Western Uganda Region Anti Corruption Coalition (MIRAC), Bunyoro
  70. Tororo Civil Society Organizations Network (TOCINET), Tororo
  71. Bugiri District  NGO Forum, Bugiri
  72. Africa Leadership Institute (AFLI), Kampala
  73. Kisoro NGO Forum, Kisoro
  74. Gulu NGO Forum, Gulu
  75. Masindi District NGO Forum, Masindi
  76. Bugisu Civil Society Network, Bugisu
  77. Iganga District NGO Forum, Iganga
  78. The Apac Anti corruption Coalition, Apac
  79. Apac NGO Link Forum, Apac
  80. Rwenzori Anti Corruption Coalition, Rwenzori
  81. Kamwenge District Development Organization, Kamwenge
  82. Kabarole Research and Resource Center, Kabarole
  83. Action for Development (ACFODE), Kampala
  84. Uganda National Farmers' Federation, Kampala
  85. Uganda National Teachers' Union, Kampala
  86. National Debate Council, Kampala
  87. Dora K. Musinguzi, Executive Director, Uganda Network on Law, Ethics and HIV/AIDS (UGANET), Kampala
  88. Refugee Law Project, Kampala
  89. Eastern Africa Media Institute, Kampala
  90. Uganda Muslims Youth Assembly (UMYA), Kampala
  91. Uganda Media Development Foundation (UMDF), Kampala
  92. Platform for Citizens Participation and Accountability, Kampala
  93. Busoga Media Network, Jinja
  94. Rwenzori Press Club, Kasese
  95. Kitara Union of Media Practitioners, Hoima

International Sign Ons:

  1. Human Rights Watch (HRW), Kampala, London, UK and New York, USA
  2. Tchérina Jerolon, International Federation for Human Rights (FIDH), Paris, France
  3. ENOUGH Project, Washington, DC, USA
  4. East African School of Human Rights, Nairobi, Kenya
  5. Human Rights First, New York, USA
  6. RESOLVE, Washington, DC, USA
  7. Foreign Policy In Focus, Washington, DC, USA
  8. Africa Action, Washington, DC, USA
  9. Africa Faith and Justice Network, Washington, DC, USA
  10. Health GAP, Global Access Project, New York, USA


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