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Ugandan human rights office vandalised in latest crackdown on civil society

D 13 mai 2014     H 05:03     A Human Rights Network for Journalists - Uganda     C 0 messages

Following the break-in and vandalisation of the Human Rights Network-Uganda offices in Ntinda – a Kampala suburb – civil society organisations have resolved to meet the Inspector General of Police over the police’s failure to investigate to logical conclusion and produce reports on several break-ins of NGOs and CSO offices in the various parts of the country, especially in the capital, Kampala.

On the night of 5 May 2014, unknown persons broke into Human Rights Network-Uganda’s (HURINET-U) offices and stole property estimated at UShs 200 million (US Dollars $81,633). According to a statement from HURINET-U, the property stolen included 25 Dell monitors, 23 CPUs, 09 UPS, 1DVR camera, 3 projectors, 1 safe, 4 laptops, 4 Sony cameras and 1 Canon camera. Items destroyed included 2 safes and 5 drawers.

Over 10 office doors were forcefully broken. The CCTV camera was manipulated and obstructed. A security guard from Tight Security – who was on duty at the premises – disappeared leaving his gun on the office table in the board room. He left behind a letter, in which he claimed that he was arrested and held at gunpoint by two armed men in police uniforms while others in civilian clothes broke into the office. The letter states that he ran away for fear of being imprisoned.

The police and detectives from Tight Security both conducted initial investigations, but no suspects have been arrested in connection with the incident as yet.

“This is part of the wave of criminality targeting CSOs ; it’s not HURINET-U alone. It is a crackdown on civil society and therefore has to be handled collectively,” the Chief Executive Officer of HURINET-U, Mohammed Ndifuna told an emergency meeting of CSOs in Ntinda.

The break in at HURINET-U follows a trend of similar occurrences on organizations involved in human rights work. An official from the NGO Forum said that over 15 offices of human rights organisations have been broken into under similar circumstances. They include ; ACCU, FHRI, EHAHRDP, AGHA, HRNJ-Uganda, AFODE, among others.

The HURINET-U Board Chairperson, Ruth Bonabaana said that the break-in was aimed at taking away crucial information and disabling the civil society, “It is a very sad note, it reflects how bad our security is. We don’t know what government is going to say this time because they have been denying that these things are not happening. I really think they were after information because they left behind much valuable property. The outgoing UN Special Rapporteur on the situation of Human Rights Defenders, Margaret Sekaggya called on the State to protect the civil society in the country.”

HURINET-Uganda was in the process of releasing a report on the "militarization of the Ugandan Police Force", a process which in advanced stages.

“We are greatly concerned about the indiscriminate attack and deliberate crack down on civil society in Uganda. Government should ensure the safety and security of human rights activists at all times as their work encompasses promotion of democracy and good governance in the country. We call upon the responsible authorities to thoroughly investigate these bizarre incidences and bring them to logical conclusions,” said the HRNJ-Uganda Coordinator, Robert Ssempala.