LONDON, United Kingdom, February 29, 2016. The Ugandan government is continuing to violate the human rights of leaders of the opposition Forum for Democratic Change (FDC) and undermining the ability of their party to legally challenge the results of the 18 February elections, said Amnesty International in a statement, as the 10-day deadline for filing presidential election petitions looms.
Security forces have repeatedly arrested the aggrieved presidential candidate Dr Kizza Besigye, and some of his party leadership colleagues and supporters. They have also besieged his home, and raided the party’s main office in the capital Kampala.
“The FDC has a legal right to challenge the election results and it must be allowed to do so,” said Sarah Jackson, Amnesty International’s Deputy Director for East Africa, the Horn and the Great Lakes.
“It is unacceptable for the government to stifle a lawfully-registered party from pursuing the only legal recourse available for it to contest the electoral outcome.”
Since the results were announced, Dr Besigye has been detained without charge at police stations or at his home in Kasangati, near Kampala.
His first post-election arrest was on 22 February, as he attempted to leave his home the day after he had suggested in a televised speech that he would challenge the outcome of the election in the Supreme Court.
“These arbitrary arrests are an affront to Dr Besigye’s right to freedom of movement and a clear sign of the prevailing climate of impunity and disregard for rule of law in Uganda,” said Sarah Jackson.
“The Ugandan government must fully and effectively respect its own constitution, and honour its voluntary international obligations to protect every Ugandan’s human rights, including to freedom of movement, freedom of expression, and freedom of peaceful assembly”.
On 20 February, the Electoral Commission declared incumbent President Yoweri Museveni winner of the presidential election with 60.75% of the vote as opposed to Besigye’s 35.37%, an outcome Dr Besigye dismissed as fraudulent.
The election took place amidst a government-ordered social media shutdown that according to European Union (EU) election observers “unreasonably constrained freedom of expression and access to information”.
According to the police, Dr Besigye’s continued arrest was made under powers of “preventive arrest” for “utterances and activities that amount to incitement to violence and defiance of the law”. Amnesty International has examined Dr Besigye’s televised remarks and does not consider him to have incited violence.
FDC headquarters were raided by police on 19 February, while elections were ongoing in parts of Kampala. Witnesses interviewed by Amnesty International said police officers fired tear gas canisters at crowds gathered at the scene.