Uganda Opposition Candidate, Citing Abuses, Petitions Worldwide Courtroom
NAIROBI, Kenya – Uganda’s leading opposition has filed a complaint with the International Criminal Court against the country’s president and nine security officials, accusing them of authorizing a wave of violence and human rights violations that intensified in advance of next week’s general election.
In the complaint filed by opposition leader Bobi Wine on Thursday in The Hague, the Ugandan government was also accused of inciting murder, abusing demonstrators, and arresting and beating political figures and human rights lawyers. A popular musician turned lawmaker, Mr Wine, said President Yoweri Museveni’s government not only arrested and beaten him, but also tried to kill him from 2018 onwards.
Mr Wine, 38, is the leading contender among ten candidates trying to oust Mr Museveni, who has ruled Uganda, a landlocked nation in East Africa, since 1986. Mr Museveni, who was once credited with stabilizing the country, has done so in recent years, and has been accused of undermining civil liberties, clogging the press and suppressing dissent.
Museveni, 76, is fighting for his sixth term after signing a law in 2018 that abolished the 75-year age limit for presidential candidates. He is widely expected to win the upcoming vote. Political analysts say he faces fragmented opposition and has received praise for promoting infrastructure projects – from new factories to hospitals and roads. He has also benefited from the notion that his government has competently handled the pandemic; Uganda has only reported 290 coronavirus-related deaths.
Mr Wine and others have faced the wrath of the authorities in recent years, but pressures have intensified as the January 14 elections approached. While Mr Museveni was allowed to hold election campaign rallies, the government has stopped or obstructed rallies by his opponents, stating that these events violated rules designed to prevent the spread of the coronavirus.
The crackdown on nationwide protests has resulted in the deaths of at least 54 people and the arrest of hundreds, according to the authorities.
Francis Zaake, an opposition lawmaker who said he was attacked by security forces, and Amos Katumba, the chairman of a local non-governmental organization who fled to the United States according to his testimony, joined Mr Wine on the complaint filed with the International Criminal Court by Er had been arrested and tortured.
“I am glad that we are able to bring proceedings against General Museveni and his other generals, as well as the people with whom he massacred the people of Uganda,” said Mr. Wine, using the full military rank of Mr. Museveni in an online news conference on Thursday.
A government spokesman did not respond to a text message for comment.
While Mr. Wine spoke to the news media on Thursday, security officials rushed tear gas and fired gunshots on the vehicle he was in.
Mr. Wine, a real-name artist Robert Kyagulanyi, wearing a helmet and flak jacket, said he “expected a live bullet pointed at me anytime”.
The court record came hours after Mr Wine said security officers led him on the campaign and arrested all 23 members of his campaign team. He also said he had received information that his children were being abducted and asked him to send them out of the country.
The election attempts by Mr. Wine were repeatedly interrupted. On November 3, he and another candidate, Patrick Amuriat, were arrested by police shortly after they had submitted their nomination papers. In mid-November, Mr Wine was arrested on charges that his rallies broke coronavirus rules – sparking protests across the country that resulted in deaths, injuries and arrests. After being denied access to his family and lawyers for two days, Mr. Wine was charged and released on bail.
In recent weeks, authorities have also arrested civil society activists, including well-known human rights lawyer Nicholas Opiyo, who has been charged with money laundering. Police officers also harassed and beaten journalists and deported a Canadian Broadcasting Corporation news team, according to the Committee for the Protection of Journalists (CPJ).
“What we’ve seen since November is incredibly worrying and shocking,” said Muthoki Mumo, the CPJ’s representative in sub-Saharan Africa, in an interview. “It’s just unabated violence against journalists. It has become downright dangerous as a journalist to cover the opposition during these elections. “
Martin Okoth, the police inspector general, said in a press conference on Friday that he would not apologize for the police beating journalists for trying to protect them.
“We will hit you for your own sake to make it easier for you to understand,” said Mr Okoth, adding that journalists should not go into areas that police consider unsafe or out of bounds.
The wave of arrests and intimidation has alarmed foreign embassies and human rights organizations. A group of United Nations human rights experts called on the government to end the violence and “create an environment conducive to peaceful and transparent elections”.
The 47-page filing with the International Criminal Court contains detailed reports, photos and links to videos alleging human rights abuses committed or sanctioned by Mr Museveni and nine current and former officials.
The court has jurisdiction over allegations of genocide, war crimes, crimes against humanity and crimes of aggression. The public prosecutor’s office confirmed in an email on Friday that they had received the contract and would investigate the allegations and inform the petitioners of the next steps.
Uganda is a party to the International Criminal Court and has sought help from the court in the arrest of Joseph Kony, leader of the Lord’s Resistance Army, wanted for 33 war crimes and crimes against humanity. If it decides to accept Mr Wine’s petition, the court would gather evidence by speaking to victims and witnesses, and dispatching investigators to collect testimony in areas where alleged crimes have taken place.
Bruce Afran, the attorney who filed the complaint on behalf of Mr Wine, argued that the court would have jurisdiction as the complaint alleged “an extensive and repetitive pattern and practice of torture involving political figures and opposition figures” .
“One of the critical factors is the regular and routine pattern of torture and abuse,” Afran said, claiming it has become “Ugandan government policy”.