Uganda: Shooting of Mr. James Rukanpana and judicial harassment of Messrs. Suleiman Trader, Jackson Magezi, Fred Kyaligonza and Prosper Businge

21/09/2017
Urgent Appeal

UGA 002 / 0917 / OBS 102
Shooting /
Judicial harassment
Uganda
September 21, 2017

The Observatory for the Protection of Human Rights Defenders, a partnership of FIDH and the World Organisation Against Torture (OMCT), requests your urgent intervention in the following situation in Uganda.

Description of the situation:

The Observatory has been informed by reliable sources about the shooting of Mr. James Rukanpana, as well as of the judicial harassment of Messrs. Suleiman Trader, Jackson Magezi, Fred Kyaligonza and Prosper Businge, members of the Twerwaneho Listeners Club (TLC) [1] in the Rwenzori region of Western Uganda.

According to the information received, on September 12, 2017, Mr. James Rukanpana was shot in both legs by armed guards hired by Ferdsult Engineering Services Limited [2] in Kasenda, Western Uganda.

Recently, Mr. James Rukanpana has been advocating for the rights of local communities, and has been opposing the takeover of over 20 crater lakes by Ferdsult Engineering Services Limited. He has actively participated in radio talk shows and mobilized communities on the issue.

In addition, on July 28, 2016, TLC and local communities filed a civil court case (HCT 01-CV-MA 062) before Fort Portal High Court against Ferdsult Engineering Services Limited and Kabarole District Local Government to secure the rights of the local communities to access crater lakes for water and domestic fishing. On June 7, 2017, the court found that the exclusive use of crater lakes by Ferdsult Engineering Services Limited following the lease by Kabarole District was an abuse of the rights of local communities, and ruled in favour of local communities.

Mr. James Rukanpana had been instrumental in the success of the court case and had transported local people who use crater lakes to attend court sessions in Fort Portal. An appeal has been filed by Ferdsult Engineering Services Limited and is currently pending determination.

The shooting incident against Mr. James Rukanpana follows a pattern of harassment against TLC members who have been threatened, assaulted and judicially harassed by Ferdsult Engineering Services Limited since 2016.

Parallel to the civil case filed by TLC against Ferdsult Engineering Services Limited and Kabarole District Local Government, a criminal case filed by Ferdsult Engineering Services Limited has been targeting Messrs. Suleiman Trader, Jackson Magezi, Fred Kyaligonza and Prosper Businge, four TLC members who had challenged the legality of Ferdsult Engineering Services Ltd’s acquisition of 20 crater lakes and eviction of communities in Kabarole District.

After being briefly detained on April 28, 2017, Messrs. Suleiman Trader and Jackson Magezi were released on April 29, 2017, on court bail pending trial.

On May 3, 2017, the four human rights defenders have been charged under criminal offenses related to the use of explosives, electronic gadgets and the poisoning of fish under Chapter 197 of the 1970 Fish Act following allegations by Ferdsult Engineering Services Limited. If convicted they would face up to seven years in jail.

The criminal charges against the four human rights defenders had initially been suspended pending the resolution of the civil court case filed by TLC against Ferdsult Engineering Services Ltd. The criminal case has been suspended again pending the appeal procedure in the civil complaint.

In addition, the Observatory recalls that for his human rights work, TLC member Mr. ErasmusIrumba was shot dead on June 23, 2017 [3]. As of publication of this appeal, the trial of five suspects was ongoing before Fort Portal Magistrates Court pending its transfer before Fort Portal High Court.

The Observatory condemns in the strongest terms the shooting of Mr. James Rukanpana and urges authorities in Uganda to adopt effective measures to ensure the protection of human rights defenders in the country. The Observatory calls for an immediate, thorough, impartial and transparent investigation without undue delay into the incident as well as into the killing of Mr. Erasmus Irumba and for those responsible to be held accountable.

The Observatory also condemns the judicial harassment against Messrs. Suleiman Trader, Jackson Magezi, Fred Kyaligonza and Prosper Businge and urges authorities in Uganda to put an end to all acts of harassment, including at the judicial level, against them and all TLC members.

Actions requested:

Please write to the authorities in Uganda asking them to:

i. Guarantee in all circumstances the physical and psychological integrity of all human rights defenders in Uganda;

ii. Carry out an immediate, thorough, impartial, and transparent investigation into the shooting of Mr. James Rukanpana as well as into the killing of Mr. Erasmus Irumba in order to identify all those responsible, bring them before an independent tribunal, and sanction them as provided by the law;

iii. Put an end to all acts of harassment, including at the judicial level against Messrs. Suleiman Trader, Jackson Magezi, Fred Kyaligonza and Prosper Businge and all TLC members so that they are able to carry out their work without hindrance;

iv. Conform to the provisions of the UN Declaration on Human Rights Defenders, adopted by the General Assembly of the United Nations on December 9, 1998, in particular with its Articles 1, and 12.2;

v. Ensure in all circumstances respect for human rights and fundamental freedoms in accordance with international human rights standards and international instruments ratified by Uganda.

Addresses:

• President Kaguta Yoweri Museveni, President of the Republic of Uganda, Fax: +256 (0) 414 436 102 / + 256 41 4235459 / +256 41 4344012. E-mail: museveni@starcom.co.ug / aak@statehouse.go.ug
• Mr. William Byaruhanga, Attorney General, and Hon. Kahinda Otafiire, Minister of Justice and Constitutional Affairs of Uganda, Fax: + 256 41 4250829. E-Mail: mojca@africaonline.co.ug
• Mr. Mike Chibita, Director of Public Prosecutions, Ministry of Justice and Constitutional Affairs of Uganda, Fax: +256-414-258-565/341-316, Email: admin@dpp.go.ug
• Ms. General Jeje Odongo, Minister of Internal Affairs of Uganda, Fax: + 256 414343088
• Mr Med Kaggwa, Chairperson, Uganda Human Rights Commission, Email: uhrc@uhrc.ug Telephone: +256414348007
• Gen. Kale Kayihura, Inspector General of Police, Telephone: +256 (0) 712 755 999
• H.E. Mr. Christopher Onyanga Aparr, Permanent Mission of Uganda to the United Nations in Geneva, Switzerland. Fax: + 41 22 340 70 30. Email: mission.uganda@ties.itu.int
• H.E. Ambassador Mirjam Blaak Sow, Embassy of Uganda to the EU in Brussels, Belgium. Fax: + 32 2.763.04.38. Email: ugembrus@brutele.be, info@ugandamission-benelux.org

Please also write to the diplomatic mission or embassy of Uganda in your respective country

***
Paris-Geneva, September 21, 2017

Kindly inform us of any action undertaken quoting the code of this appeal in your reply.

The Observatory for the Protection of Human Rights Defenders (the Observatory) was created in 1997 by FIDH and OMCT. The objective of this programme is to prevent or remedy situations of repression against human rights defenders. FIDH and OMCT are both members of ProtectDefenders.eu, the European Union Human Rights Defenders Mechanism implemented by international civil society.

To contact the Observatory, call the emergency line:
· Email: Appeals@fidh-omct.org
· Tel and fax FIDH: + 33 (0) 1 43 55 25 18 / +33 1 43 55 18 80
· Tel and fax OMCT: + 41 (0) 22 809 49 39 / + 41 22 809 49 29

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