Copenhagen, (Denmark): Delegates all over the world attending the ongoing Global Association of National Human Rights Institutions( GANHRI) were treated to a dose of drama on Monday, Nov 7th and Tuesday 8th after members of the opposition National Unity Platform (NUP) stormed the conference and caused havoc at the United Nations-funded event.
A section of NUP activists led by Mr Ssentamu Ronald on Monday stormed the venue of the conference in Copenhagen to call out the world on the ongoing human rights abuse in Uganda under President Yoweri Kaguta Museveni.
Having informed the Danish police of their planned protest, they led to the conference hall but were dragged out that they were nowhere on the list of guests.
The handful of protestors then camped outside the building where they continued expressing their dissatisfaction with the Kampala regime with regards to the protection of human rights.
“Stop whitewashing torture and abductions.” read a message on one of the placards carried by the protestors.
Mr Ssentamu in fury after being dragged out of the conference room said; “GANHRI supplies UHRC and many other non-functional African human rights organisations with “A-status”, while at the same time, it removed Russia as a member. Again this confirms that white people have more human rights than black people.”
“This double standard on Human Rights has to stop,” he added.
The Uganda Human Rights Commission is at the event represented by Ms Ruth Seninde on behalf of the Commission boss.
The National Unity Platform demonstrators are protesting against what they call “Whitewashing of Ugandan Torture and abductions by GANHRI & UHRC,” going further to elaborate on the reasons for their frustration and explain why the UHRC does not comply with the so-called Paris principles.
The 2021 arrest and torture of author Kakwenza Rukirabashaija at the hands of General Muhoozi Keinerugaba is one of the reasons they presented. They accuse UHRC of remaining silent on this abuse yet they are expected to safeguard the rights of all Ugandans regardless of political affiliations. They pointed out that “an initial UHRC tweet describing ‘scars and injuries’ was mysteriously removed, casting doubts on the independence of the commission.”
They also accuse the rights body of conducting itself in a partisan way by omitting several well-documented cases of torture, such as those of Samuel Masereka, Ziggy Wine, Muhammad Ssegirinya, Robert Kyagulanyi, and countless others from its annual UHRC reports.
“A report from the NUP outlining 18 cases of disappeared opposition members has been unjustly labelled as ‘questionable’ by the UHRC without providing any substantiated evidence, the infamous ‘November massacre,’ in which security forces allegedly killed over 54 unarmed civilians following the arrest of presidential candidate Kyagulanyi, remains unexamined in any of the annual UHRC reports. These are issues that need to be addressed.” Says renowned rights defender, Dr Nico Schoonderwoerd who has closely followed Uganda’s human rights record for over five years.
“Shockingly, torture techniques in Uganda, including beatings with iron bars, whippings, burnings with hot flat irons, (anal) rape, genital torture, waterboarding, nail pulling, and flesh removal with pliers, have gone unaddressed by the UHRC.” He adds.
Despite the UHRC’s stated mandate that suspects should be brought to court within 48 hours, the protestors are concerned that hundreds of opposition supporters have been held incommunicado in ungazetted prisons, with no accountability.
“Alarming statements from the UHRC chair lady suggest a desire to amend torture laws like the “Prevention and Prohibition of Torture Act” to allow security forces greater leeway in protecting themselves,” notes Sadati Dafa, an activist among the protestors in Copenhagen.
Equally concerning is the revelation that some commission members have been observed carrying firearms to their meetings, further undermining the commission’s perceived impartiality.” Dafa further contends.
They also question how UHRC members are “selected” which they say appears to prioritize loyalty to the regime over a track record in civil society or human rights. Instances of members like Simeo Nsubuga, a supporter of Muhoozi Kainerugaba, threatening opposition leaders, and Jackline Atuhaire’s involvement in a murder case, they insist, raise serious questions.
The troubling case of peaceful activist Nana Mwafrika, who was arrested along with her 14- and 2-year-old children when she sought to protest Kakwpenza’s abduction at the UHRC, underscores the dismissive stance taken by the commission toward valid complaints.
Mr Dafa says that it is time for every right-minded Ugandan to break the silence on what is happening in their country, adding that at this rate, no one is safe. He says that although there have been efforts to thwart their attempts to voice their views at the conference, a lot has already been achieved through speaking out outside the facility and issuing fliers to delegates showing the atrocities they say have been committed against the people of Uganda.
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