Opposition Members of Parliament and other civilians arrested and detained as a result of a by-election violence in Arua Municipality 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 has said.
Musician-turned opposition leader Robert Kyagulanyi, also known as Bobi Wine, and Francis Zaake (now said to be on life support machine in hospital) and others, were arrested on August 14. Robert Kyagulanyi (now detained at Makindye Military Barracks) was yesterday charged with unlawful possession of firearms and ammunition at a general court martial in Gulu and remanded in military custody until 23 August but was rushed to Kampala later as pressure piled.
“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, which does not have competence to try civilians.”
Amnesty International said it spoke to 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.Kampala mayor Erias Lukwago confirmed today that the legislator is in bad health, having been brutally abused by security forces.
“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 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.
Legislators Kyagulanyi, Zaake and others were arrested on August 14, following clashes between ruling party and opposition supporters during campaign rallies in Arua Municipality.
Robert Kyagulanyi’s says his driver, Yasin Kawuma, was killed by the security agents in a car as they targeted him. He was buried days ago leaving behind widows and over 11 children.