Uganda: Opposition MPs must not be tried in military court

Two opposition MPs arrested and detained in Uganda must be promptly charged and tried in ordinary civilian courts if sufficient evidence of a recognizable criminal offence is found or else be released, Amnesty International said today.

If there is sufficient evidence that Robert Kyagulanyi and Francis Zaake have committed a recognisable offence within the law, they must be promptly charged and tried in an ordinary civilian court that meets international standards of fair trial.
Joan Nyanyuki, Amnesty International's Director for East Africa, the Horn and the Great Lakes

Musician-turned opposition leader Robert Kyagulanyi, also known as Bobi Wine, and Francis Zaake, were arrested on 14 August. Robert Kyagulanyi was today charged with unlawful possession of firearms and ammunition at a general court martial in Gulu and remanded in military custody until 23 August. However, Francis Zaake's whereabouta are still unknown.

“If there is sufficient evidence that Robert Kyagulanyi and Francis Zaake have committed a recognisable offence within the law, they must be promptly charged and tried in an ordinary civilian court that meets international standards of fair trial,” said Joan Nyanyuki, Amnesty International's Director for East Africa, the Horn and the Great Lakes.

The Ugandan authorities must not attempt to intimidate the opposition by dragging these MPs through the military court system.
Joan Nyanyuki, Amnesty International Director for East Africa, the Horn and the Great Lakes

“The Ugandan authorities must not attempt to intimidate the opposition by dragging these MPs through the military court system, which does not have competence to try civilians.”

Amnesty International spoke to Robert Kyagulanyi’s lawyer, Asuman Basalirwa, who confirmed he had seen his client. He said the MP had been badly beaten up and sustained serious head and other bodily injuries.

“It is now more than 48 hours since these MPs were arrested and yet the whereabouts of Francis Zaake remains unknown, which strongly suggests the authorities are hiding something and not playing by the rules. Allegations of torture and other ill-treatment are extremely worrying and must be promptly investigated in a thorough, impartial and independent manner,” said Joan Nyanyuki.

Security officers claim to have found unregistered firearms in the hotel room of Robert Kyagulanyi, allegations which the hotel management refutes. The MP had gone to campaign in a by-election held on 15 August, in which their candidate, Kassiano Wadri, secured the parliamentary seat.

Background

Robert Kyagulanyi and Francis Zaake were arrested on 14 August following clashes between ruling party and opposition supporters during campaign rallies in Arua Municipality.

Robert Kyagulanyi’s driver, Yasin Kawuma, was killed during these clashes.