UW STATEMENT On the Kidnap and detaining online activists incommunicado

Press release                                                           12th January 2016

Kidnap and detaining online activists incommunicado threatens Internet freedoms in Uganda, Says the Unwanted Witness Uganda.

Kampala, 12th/Jan/2016; The Unwanted Witness is dismayed by the kidnap and unlawful detention of online activists arising from their online expression because it is threatening Internet use and freedoms in Uganda.

This is evidenced by the kidnap and detaining incommunicado of Charles Rwomushana over posting online of a photo depicting the body of Christopher Aine. The detaining incommunicado of Rwomushana is not only a violation of his constitutional rights but raises eye brows on the extent and level of enjoyment of Internet freedoms in Uganda.

Article 23 (4) states that; a person arrested or detained shall, if not earlier released, be brought to court as soon as possible but in any case not later than forty-eight hours from the time of his or her arrest.23 (4) (b) also add that; the next of kin, lawyer and personal doctor of that person shall be allowed reasonable access to that person. All these rights were violated by police with impunity as lawyers and family members were all denied access to him.

Charles Rwomushana was arrested on Friday 8th January 2016 on his way to WBS TV where he was scheduled to appear on a live weekly broadcast, he was way-laid, kidnapped by plain clothed men and detained at police’s Special Investigations Unit (SIU) Kireka from where he was charged with libel and sectarianism.

However, after being released on the night Monday the 11 at 8:30PM. Rwomushana has since been placed under house arrest and security agents confiscated his mobile phone and cannot communicate to the outside world.

“We are at a critical time. These kidnaps and detention of online activists are some of the many tactics being used by the government trying to close online space, which is becoming popular among the people of Uganda after killing the traditional media.These actions intimidate Internet users, instill self censorship and limit the citizens’ full enjoyment of online freedoms.” Says Jeff Wokulira Ssebaggala, the Unwanted Witness Chief Executive Officer.

Ssebaggala adds that the growing number of Internet users in Uganda from one (1) million in 2011 to close to seven (7) million users currently scares the government since online platforms are the remaining independent dashboard of ideas.

The Unwanted Witness will continue to offer legal support to Rwomushana until he gets justice but also to gain his online freedoms that are being stifled.

The Unwanted Witness would thus respectfully remind the government of its international commitments to respect, and protect human rights especially at this time of election and also as it prepares herself for the review of its human rights record by the UN Human Rights Council under the Universal Periodic Review mechanism.

We further call upon the Inspector General of Police to immediately withdraw his security agents from Rwomushana’s home or else we shall drag him to court as an individual.

For more information contact
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