All charges against the four human rights defenders (HRDs) working with Twerwaneho Listeners Club (TLC) must be immediately and unconditionally dropped and related targeted attacks against defenders be investigated for appropriate action, the National Coalition of Human Rights Defenders (NCHRD-U) and TLC said today. We are concerned that related reprisals and trumped up charges are used to violate rights of defenders and serve to entrench the culture of impunity and rights violations.
On April 27, 2017, Prosper Businge and Kyaligonza Fred, both HRDs working with Twerwaneho Listeners Club, a local human rights group based in Fort Portal appeared before the Grade one Magistrate’s Court of Fort Portal. The NCHRD-U working with TLC ensured the necessary legal support was afforded to the two to ensure bail was granted on the same day. Earlier, on April 25th, 2017, Magezi Jackson and Trader Suleiman were arrested and brought before the same court and were also released on bail. The four HRDs were charged with the use of poison, explosives or electrical devices contrary to section 7 (1), 28&22 of the Fish Act Cap 197.
The woes of the 4 HRDs date to as way back as 28thJuly, 2016 when they filed a civil law suit challenging Ferdsult Engineering Service Ltd for its acquisition of 20 crater lakes, evictions of residents and illegal grabbing of land. Ferdsult challenged the suit through filing for an interim order to restrain communities from engaging in fishing activities in the 20crater lakes. TLC vigorously pursued the matter up to the High Court sitting in Fort Portal. Ferdsult was later granted an order permitting them to undertake fishing activities in the craters. However, following an appeal by TLC on 7thDecember, 2016 an injunction was issued restraining both Ferdsult Engineering and the communities from engaging in any activities on the lakes. In total violation of the court order, Ferdsult Engineering Services Ltd continued to undertake activities on the said crater lakes, to the detriment of the communities and interests of justice. Legal action is being taken to seek redress.
Mr Jackson Magezi, a human rights defender from Fort Portal.
Against this background, we believe that the charges levied against the four human rights defenders are targeted at intimidating and harassing them to forestall their involvement in advocacy activities against the contested actions of Ferdsult Engineering Services Ltd, the organisations said. We are further concerned by the manner in which the said charges were preferred against the accused and the process in which the arrest warrants were issued for their detention.
Human rights defenders have the right to use any lawful means to peacefully defend rights whenever they have reason to believe that guaranteed rights are being violated or threatened. This includes undertaking activities to raise community awareness about the respective violation to empower people to stand up for their rights, the organisations said. It is unfortunate that as a result of their activism, they are now a subject of a flawed judicial process flout with irregularities.
The NCHRD-U with the TLC takes exception to these occurrences and therefore urges the State agencies to;
- Unconditionally drop all charges against the four human rights defenders.
- Conduct meaningful, impartial and transparent investigations in the claims that Ferdsult Engineering Services Ltd is violating rights, and take appropriate action.
- Ensure that HRDs are protected from reprisals arising out of their peaceful advocacy on human rights violations occasioned by multi-national entities.
For more information please contact:
Gerald Kankya Executive Director Twerwaneho Listeners Club +256-702-499-986 [email protected]
National Coalition of Human Rights Defenders Uganda +256-414-699-373 [email protected]