The undersigned organisations strongly condemn the arbitrary arrest of renowned human rights defender Nicholas Opiyo. On 22 December, Opiyo in the company of two other lawyers Odur Anthony and Esomu Simon were arrested at about 4.00pm by plain clothed security agents at Lamaro restaurant in Kamokya suburb, Kampala, and bundled in a vehicle.
The Uganda Police Force in a brief statement confirmed his arrest by a Joint Task team of Security and Financial Intelligence on allegations of money laundering and related malicious acts. It is absurd that the Police force would proceed to arrest him in a highhanded manner, yet investigations are inconclusive. The trio is currently being detained at Kireka Police post.
Nicholas Opiyo is the Executive Director and lead Attorney at Chapter Four Uganda, and a member of the Steering Committee of World Movement for Democracy. He is a frontline activist and an ardent critic of the government’s high-handed acts and omissions that violate universal human rights standards. He is a crusader of human rights both locally and globally and undertakes his rights work peacefully. This is but the latest event in a series of acts of intimidation and neutralisation against Opiyo. On the night of 8 August 2020, his residence was broken into by unknown people and his personal equipment including mobile phones and a laptop taken. Perpetrators of the break-in are yet to be arrested and prosecuted.
Article 23 of Uganda’s Constitution protects personal liberty including in cases of arrest and detention. The Uganda Police Force should therefore respect Opiyo’s rights while in custody by ensuring that he is produced before the Courts of law within the constitutional 48 hours from arrest, has access to his lawyers, next of kin, and medical treatment.
We urge the authorities to immediately and unconditionally release Nicholas Opiyo, Odur Anthony and Esomu Simon if they are not ready to present them before a court of competent jurisdiction within the stipulated 48-hour rule.
Avocats Sans Frontières (ASF)
DefendDefenders (East and Horn of Africa Human Rights Defenders Project),
Ethiopian Human Rights Defenders Center
National Coalition of Human Rights Defenders (NCHRD-U)
Tanzania Human Rights Defenders Coalition (THRDC)