On Sunday 22nd May 2016, the Ugandan civil rights movement woke up to sad news of a raid on one of their counterpart’s office premises. The offices of Human Rights Awareness and Promotion Forum, an organization that has become reputable for providing legal services to sexual and gender minorities as well as sex workers, were broken into by assailants broke; the goons gained access to the organizational grounds through a neighbour’s wall and murdered Emmanuel Alituha, a security guard from G4S that was on duty.
According to the CCTV footage from the offices, the two assailants attempted to disable some cameras at the facility but unknown to them were several others that were installed in hard to see places. One of the attained footages shows the two men killing Alituha in cold blood.
Some of the offices that were broken int include those of the Executive Director and Deputy Executive Director. The assailants are clearly seen checking through all the files and taking away a couple of documents including HRAPF’s Articles and Memorandum of Association and an LCD flat TV screen.
Surprisingly they left behind the valuable computers, laptops and other electronics that were easily accessible and in visible view, sparking views that this was indeed a hate crime and they thugs had a clear motive.
In a related development, Kuchu Times has learnt that, two of HRAPF’s staff members had earlier reported cases where some they had been attacked in their respective places of abode and robbed of laptops. It should be noted that there has been a series of similar break-ins registered by different human rights organisations and most notable is the fact that al these incidents have had the invaders take with them crucial information storage gadgets, information back-up systems and many more valuable equipment.
It was also upon this background that HRAPF with support from other civil society organizations called a press conference on 23/5/2016 to put out their clear message to the Ugandan government and the general public to act upon and put a stop to these rampant attacks on civil liberties in the country.
Adrian Juuko the Executive Director expressed his frustrations towards the Ugandan police as they have not taken the initiative to produce relevant reports in relation to similar incidents registered by some partners in the past..
Below are the two statements, from Human Rights Awareness and Promotion Forum and a joint statement from the Civil Society Fraternity in Uganda.
VIOLENT BREAK IN AT HRAPF OFFICES
Kampala, Monday 23 May 2016
Human Rights Awareness and Promotion Forum (HRAPF) urges the Ugandan government to conduct a transparent and swift investigation into the break-in to the HRAPF offices on 22 May 2016, during which the guard on duty was beaten to death.
Four assailants murdered Emmanuel Alituha in the early hours of 22 May 2016, who was the guard on duty that morning, and proceeded to break into the office building. Despite attempts to disable cameras and the alarm system, both remained functional and security camera footage confirmed the events.
The offices of the Executive Director and Deputy Executive Director were broken into and left ransacked. The assailants broke open all the drawers and cupboards and combed through documents and files. They took away a number of documents some yet to be identified, except for a certified copy of our Articles and Memorandum of Association and a flat screen TV, which was at the Reception. Surprisingly, computers, laptops and other electronic gadgets that thieves could easily take were all left intact including those near the window that was used to gain access to the main building.
The Police arrived at HRAPF at around 8:00am to investigate the crime scene. This was about two hours after they were first notified of the break in. They took samples of physical evidence.
This incident follows a spate of attacks on the homes of two of our staff members in the past one month in which laptops and phones were taken. HRAPF is also deeply concerned about this break-in and similar ones that have happened before at other Civil Society Organisations. Such break-ins of which the purpose is never clear frustrate important work that serves the interests of the common people.
We call upon the police to quickly complete the investigations, as we are very worried about the motive of this horrendous crime.
JOINT CIVIL SOCIETY PRESS STATEMENT ON BREAK INS
Joint civil Society Press statement on Break ins of offices of civil society organizations
23 May 2016
Uganda government should immediately take steps to end pattern of office break-ins
10 Ugandan civil society organisations urge the government of Uganda to conduct swift and transparent investigations the recent wave of office break-ins targeting human rights organisations and take steps to put an end to the practice.
On 22 May 2016, the Human Rights Awareness and Promotion Forum (HRAPF) offices were broken into and the guard on duty was beaten to death. The offices of the Executive Director and Deputy Executive Director broken into and left ransacked, and an unknown number of documents were taken. Other valuable items, such as laptops and other electronics, were left in the offices.
“We are deeply concerned about the series of break-ins that have targeted civil society organisations lately. The Ugandan government should ensure that those responsible for the brutal murder of HRAFP’s guard and the burglary are found and held accountable, and take steps to end this pattern of break-ins,” said Sheila Muwanga, Deputy Director of the Foundation for Human Rights Initiative.
On 10 April 2016, unknown assailants attempted to break into the offices of Human Rights Network for Journalists-Uganda (HRNJ-U) after sedating their guard. HRNJ-Uganda was last broken into on 29 June 2015, when robbers stole computers, valuable documents, cash and other property reportedly worth 45 million Ugandan shillings. Police investigations were inconclusive.
Between 2013 and 2014, the NGO Forum reported that at least 26 NGO offices were broken into. The Foundation for Human Rights Initiative and DefendDefenders (East and Horn of Africa Human Rights Defenders Project) were also broken into in 2014, and had organisational documents searched and valuable goods stolen. Although police conducted investigations, these remained inconclusive.
“It is of concern that assailants do not only look for valuable goods, but also steal confidential organisational documents. This indicates that the break-ins are not random, but target human rights organisations specifically,” said Nicholas Opiyo, Executive Director of Chapter Four.
The government of Uganda should ensure that human rights organisations work in a free and safe environment, immediately take steps to find those responsible for this latest break-in – which regrettably resulted in loss of life – and investigate this extremely worrying pattern affecting human rights organisations in Uganda.
Chapter Four Uganda
DefendDefenders (East and Horn of Africa Human Rights Defenders Project)
Defenders Protection Initiative
Foundation for Human Rights Initiative (FHRI)
Human Rights Awareness and Promotion Forum
Human Rights Center Uganda
Human Rights Network for Journalists – Uganda
Human Rights Network Uganda
Legal Aid Service Providers Network
National Coalition of Human Rights Defenders – Uganda
Sexual Minorities Uganda