Hivos: The Ugandan government must guarantee safety and security for human rights actors

February 19, 2018

On 9 February 2018, eight unidentified persons broke into the offices of Human Rights Awareness and Promotion Forum (HRAPF) and attacked two security guards with machetes, leaving them both hospitalized in a critical condition. This incident repeats an almost choreographed pattern of harassment and intimidation as it closely resembles the break-in of 2016. It can only be concluded that these attacks on HRAPF and its staff are deliberately meant to instill fear.

HRAPF is a Uganda-based NGO founded in 2008 that promotes the rights of marginalized groups through advocacy, research and documentation, legal and human rights awareness and capacity building. HRAPF works to achieve systematic access to justice in Uganda, specifically for sexual minorities, poor women and men, children living with HIV/AIDS and the elderly.

These and other sustained attacks against human rights defenders in Uganda continue unabated and subsequent investigations fail to yield arrests or prosecutions. Speculation is rife on the probable cause of the break-ins, and an authoritative, independent investigation is needed to settle the matter. The persistent lack of accountability, however, is creating a worrying trend within the civil society sector, which if not mitigated spells doom for the human rights organizations and individual defenders operating in Uganda.

Hivos is deeply concerned about these continued attacks and unilaterally calls for an effective, sustainable safety and security solution to protect human rights actors and a process of conclusive and impartial investigations to identify and prosecute the individuals behind the break-ins, intimidation, robberies and assaults.

HRAPF continues to contribute to legislative and policy reforms to ensure that all individuals are treated equally, to increase accountability for human rights violations and to advance human rights. As Hivos, we stand by HRAPF staff during this difficult time and call on the Ugandan government to guarantee the security of human rights defenders and organizations operating in Uganda.

In solidarity with all civil society organizations that defend and promote human rights, we shall continue to lobby and advocate for the protection of civil and political rights, which include the right to life, liberty and personal security, as well as the rights to free speech, movement and privacy. We also wish a speedy recovery to the two security guards who are currently in hospital.