Approximately 2 years ago a break in occurred at the offices of HUMAN RIGHTS AWARENESS AND PROMOTION FORUM-UGANDA (HRAPF), a human rights organization in Kampala, Uganda. A guard was murdered. The faces of the perpetrators were caught on camera. (see below) There have been no arrests. Not only has there been no justice, but this same organization HRAPF, has been targeted again, experiencing a second violent break-in.
At African Human Rights Coalition we stand in solidarity with HRAPF and the Human Rights defenders in Uganda, calling for swift action and justice:
Given the many breaking that have occurred at NGO's in Uganda, one can only wonder whether such is pure incompetence on the part of police and authorities or whether the Ugandan government is purposely failing the organizations which protect minorities and often serve to challenge the country's human rights records. It is abundantly clear that human rights defenders and organizations working in this realm, to include LGBTI rights, are not protected. The question is whether or not Uganda will continue along this path, so clearly evident of its failure or lack of concern, or whether it will take strong action. Now is the time for leadership in Uganda, all the way to the top, to speak out against such crimes and to ensure every effort is put into bringing these criminals to justice.
Statement from Executive Director of HUMAN RIGHTS AWARENESS AND PROMOTION FORUM-UGANDA (HRAPF):
"At about 3.00am this morning, a group of about nine unidentified individuals broke into the offices of Human Rights Awareness and Promotion Forum (HRAPF). They jumped over the high perimeter wall surrounding the office, disabled the electricity supply and thus affecting the CCTV cameras, and then attacked the guards on duty and the attack dog with iron bars and batons. One part of the group carried on the scuffle with the guards and the dog for close to one hour while the other plied open the main door to the main building and the back door, and triggered the emergency alarm in the process. The guards were able to escape by climbing onto the water tank and jumping into the next compound, sustaining severe injuries including a skull fracture to one of them.
They are currently admitted at St. Francis Nsambya Hospital Kampala. The rapid response team from our security providers, G4S arrived at the scene and scared off the attackers, and the police also arrived soon thereafter after being called by the neighbours. From the inventory so far done, nothing was taken from the HRAPF offices.This is the second such attack that HRAPF has suffered within a period of less than two years, and all being executed in almost the same fashion.
The first attack took place on the 22nd of May 2016 in which Mr. Emmanuel Arituha, the security guard on duty at the time was brutally murdered. The office of the Executive Director and the Deputy Director, Programs were entered, drawers ransacked and documents left strewn around. Despite the police lifting fingerprints and blood samples, and HRAPF providing CCTV footage clearly showing the faces of the attackers, the police after constant reminders from HRAPF only provided a short report classifying the attack as a random attack, without providing how they came to that conclusion or identifying anyone who was involved and what had been done to them.
These attacks come against the backdrop of a narrowing civic space and increasing incidents of break-ins at civil society organisations that have not been satisfactorily investigated or resolved. Since 2012, there have been reported break-ins at numerous organisations working in the field of human rights advocacy. Organisations such as the Uganda Land Alliance, the Foundation for Human Rights Initiative, the Legal Aid Service Providers Network, Akina Mama Wa Afrika and the Anti-Corruption Coalition have suffered break-ins in similar fashion and, despite timely reports to the police on all occasions, investigations have been unsatisfactory and the follow up insufficient. This is the latest in a series of attacks against civil society organisations which,n regardless of the motivations of the assailants, points to the increasing lack of protection provided to human rights defenders in Uganda.
We call upon the police to investigate this and the first attack on HRAPF, and all previous similar incidents to other CSOs as thoroughly as possible and prosecute all the persons involved. We also call upon the government of the Republic of Uganda to provide the necessary protection to the human rights defenders in Uganda by responding decisively to such threats against civil society organisations, and causing the investigation and prosecution of all persons involved in these incidents.
We thank our development partners, implementing partners, friends, employees and clients of the organisation for standing with us through out this difficult time. We also recognise the efforts of our two guards, who are currently battling for their lives after injuries sustained during the attack. We also recognise the role of the Police in quickly responding after being informed of the attack and securing the scene of crime, and our neighbours who called the police and also notified our staff of what was happening.
We thank you all for the continued support in the struggle to take human rights to all."