UN human rights experts urged authorities in Uganda on Tuesday to cease “the arrest, detention and judicial harassment of political opponents, civil society leaders and human rights defenders,” due to concerns of violence in the lead-up to Uganda’s presidential election, which is set to take place on January 14.
In June, the Uganda Electoral Commission published guidelines regulating election procedures during the COVID-19 pandemic. The UN experts stated that in the time since these guidelines were published, civic space has diminished and COVID-19 restrictions have been abused to curb dissent prior to the election, thus allegedly infringing on fundamental freedoms.
The experts pointed to events that took place on Sunday as evidence of alleged pre-election violence. Three journalists were reportedly hit by tear gas canisters in Masaka. Additionally, opposition leader Robert Kyagulanyi claimed that his bodyguard died when a military truck hit him. The military denies the latter allegation, stating that the bodyguard fell from a car.
The experts furthermore called for charges to be dropped against individuals who have been arrested during this pre-election period. In reference to the December 22 arrest of prominent human rights defender Nicholas Opiyo, along with four other individuals, the experts stated that the arrests “appear to be strictly related to the electoral context, and fictitious charges being used to justify them.” Opposition leaders have also been arrested.
The experts urged authorities to take all necessary measures to ensure that a peaceful and transparent election ensues.