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Uganda: Government should immediately take steps to end pattern of office break-ins

Statement read by Hassan Shire at HRAPF press conference on 23 May 2016.

10 Ugandan civil society organisations urge the government of Uganda to conduct swift and transparent investigations into the recent wave of office break-ins targeting human rights organisations and take steps to put an end to the practice.

On 22 May 2016, the Human Rights Awareness and Promotion Forum (HRAPF) offices were broken into and the guard on duty was beaten to death. The offices of the Executive Director and Deputy Executive Director were broken into and left ransacked, and an unknown number of documents were taken. Other valuable items, such as laptops and other electronics, were left in the offices.

“We are deeply concerned about the series of break-ins that have targeted civil society organisations lately. The Ugandan government should ensure that those responsible for the brutal murder of HRAFP’s guard and the burglary are found and held accountable, and take steps to end this pattern of break-ins,” said Sheila Muwanga, Deputy Director of the Foundation for Human Rights Initiative.

On 10 April 2016, unknown assailants attempted to break into the offices of Human Rights Network for Journalists-Uganda (HRNJ-U) after sedating their guard. HRNJ-Uganda was last broken into on 29 June 2015, when robbers stole computers, valuable documents, cash, and other property reportedly worth 45 million Ugandan shillings. Police investigations were inconclusive.

Between 2013 and 2014, the NGO Forum reported that at least 26 NGO offices were broken into. The Foundation for Human Rights Initiative and DefendDefenders (East and Horn of Africa Human Rights Defenders Project) were also broken into in 2012, and had organisational documents searched and valuable goods stolen. Although police conducted investigations, these remained inconclusive.

“It is of concern that assailants do not only look for valuable goods, but also steal confidential organisational documents.

This indicates that the break-ins are not random, but target human rights organisations specifically,” said Nicolas Opiyo, Executive Director of Chapter Four.

The government of Uganda should ensure that human rights organisations work in a free and safe environment, immediately take steps to find those responsible for this latest break-in – which regrettably resulted in loss of life – and investigate this extremely worrying pattern affecting human rights organisations in Uganda.

  • Chapter Four Uganda
  • DefendDefenders (East and Horn of Africa Human Rights Defenders Project)
  • Defenders Protection Initiative
  • Foundation for Human Rights Initiative (FHRI)
  • Human Rights Awareness and Promotion Forum
  • Human Rights Center Uganda
  • Human Rights Network for Journalists – Uganda
  • Human Rights Network Uganda
  • Legal Aid Service Providers Network
  • National Coalition of Human Rights Defenders – Uganda
  • Sexual Minorities Uganda