Urgent Action: Activist Arrested for Criticizing the President (Uganda: UA 56.20)
April 21, 2020
On 13 April, Kakwenza Rukirabashaija, a Ugandan activist, was arrested by military police at his home in Iganga, eastern Uganda. He was charged with trumped-up charges of defamation and cyber related crimes and detained in the military barracks at Mbuya, near the capital Kampala. He is popularly known as the author of “The Greedy Barbarian”, a book that criticizes the ruling first family of Uganda and is also a political activist linked to the Forum for Democratic Change (FDC) party.
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President Yoweri Museveni The President of the Republic of Uganda Due to postal restrictions caused by COVID-19, please only send physical mail to the Embassy Email: [email protected]
I am writing to express my concern for Kakwenza Rukirabashaija, an activist, author and law student, who was arrested by six military police officers at his home in Inganga on 13 April 2020. He was arrested on trumped-up charges of defamation and cyber related crimes. During his arrest, the police told him that he was being arrested because of the book that he had written. He remains in detention at Uganda People’s Defense Force Military Barracks in Mbuya.
I also wish to bring to your attention that Kakwenza Rukirabashaija has not had access to a lawyer while in detention and his family has been unable to visit him due to the ongoing lockdown to prevent the spread of Covid-19.
I fear that the arrest and continued detention of Kakwenza Rukirabashaija is part of a wider pattern of escalating repression, harassment and intimidation of vocal critics of the government and the ruling first family and that he is being detained solely for peacefully exercising his right to freedom of expression.
I urge you to ensure the immediate and unconditional release of Kakwenza Rukirabashaija and ensure that all charges against him are dropped; and ensure that until he is released, he is allowed unhindered access to his family and lawyers and that he is protected from torture and other ill-treatment. If contact visits are restricted due to Covid-19 preventive measures, they must be replaced with other means of contact, for example by phone, email or video call.