Report of the Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights defenders, A/HRC/16/44/Add.1, 28 February 2011: Uganda
2303. On 23 September 2010, the Special Rapporteur, together with the Chair-Rapporteur of the Working Group on Arbitrary Detention, the Special Rapporteur on the promotion and protection of the right to freedom of opinion and expression, the Special Rapporteur on the independence of judges and lawyers, the Special Rapporteur on the promotion and protection of human rights and fundamental freedoms while countering terrorism, sent and urgent appeal regarding the arrest and current situation of Mr. Al-Amin Kimathi, of Kenyan nationality and Executive Coordinator of Muslims Human Rights Forum (MHRF), and Mr. Mbugua Mureithi, of Kenyan nationality and a human rights lawyer. Mr. Al- Amin Kimathi has worked to expose and document human rights violations, arbitrary detention and unlawful renditions in the context of counter-terrorism operations in the East and Horn of Africa. Mr. Mbugua Mureithi represents the families of Kenyan suspects transferred to Uganda on allegations of involvement in the 11 July 2010 bombings in Kampala.
2304. According to the information received, on 16 September 2010, the Ugandan police arrested the two Kenyan human rights defenders at the Entebbe International Airport. Both men were travelling to Kampala for the court hearing of Kenyan suspects arrested in connection with the bombings that killed 70 people in Kampala on 11 July 2010.
2305. According to reports received, the two human rights defenders were transferred to the Rapid Response Unit headquarters in Kireka, a suburb of Kampala, where they were reportedly held incommunicado and had no access to a lawyer.
2306. It had been reported that on 18 September 2010 Mr. Mbugua Mureithi was released from police custody in Kampala and immediately expelled to Kenya. Mr. Al-Amin Kimathi was reportedly held incommunicado at the Ugandan police’s Rapid Response Unit Headquarters in Kireka, Kampala, without charges or access to legal representation, until 21 September. On this date, it had been reported that Mr. Al-Amin Kimathi was brought before a judge and remanded to the Luzira Maximum Security Prison on charges of murder and attempted murder as well as terrorism-related charges in connection with the bombings that took place in Kampala in July 2010.
2307. Due to their arrest, detention and, in the case of Mr. Mureithi, expulsion, the two men had not had a chance to meet with their clients, who are charged with offences including murder and terrorism, punishable by death under Ugandan law. The court case involving their clients had continued in their absence.
2308. Concern was expressed at the arrest of Mr. Al-Amin Kimathi and Mr. Mbugua Mureithi and at allegations received that their arrest could be linked to their work, respectively as human rights lawyer and in denouncing and documenting unlawful practices by the authorities in counter-terrorism operations. Further concern was expressed about allegations indicating that Mr. Al-Amin Kimathi had no access to a lawyer since the time of his arrest and until he was remanded to the Luzira Maximum Security Prison.
2309. The Special Rapporteur wishes to express her regret that, at the time of finalizing the present report, the Government of Uganda has not responded to her communication sent during the reporting period and has not responded to any of the 10 communications sent by the mandate since 2004. She considers response to her communications an important part of cooperation by Governments. She urges the Government to respond to concerns raised by her and provide detailed information regarding investigations undertaken, prosecutions as well as protective measures taken.
2310. The Special Rapporteur reiterates her concern about the situation of human rights defenders advocating for the rights of women as well as lesbian, gay, bisexual and trangender people in Uganda, and urges the Government of Uganda to create a safe environment conducive to their legitimate work. As stated in a press release dated 1 March 2010, the Special Rapporteur, jointly with Special Rapporteur on the promotion and protection of the right to freedom of opinion and expression, voiced their deep concern about the Anti-Homosexuality Bill which, if adopted as it was, would have not only violated the fundamental rights of lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people in Uganda but would also criminalize the legitimate activities of men and women, as well as national and international organizations, who strive for the respect for equality and non- discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation.
Link to full text of the report: http://www2.ohchr.org/english/issues/defenders/docs/A.HRC.16.44.Add.1_EFSonly.pdf