The Uganda Key Populations Consortium (UKPC) condemns the arrests of Nicholas Opiyo, a Human Rights Defender by the Uganda Police Forces on Tuesday December 22nd, 2020. Opiyo was picked up by plain clothed security operative from a restaurant in Kamwokya, Kampala, on Tuesday where he was having lunch with his friends.
The Uganda Police later confirmed his arrest by the Special Investigations Division-SID for his alleged involvement in money laundering and other related malicious acts.
Like all Human Rights Defenders in Uganda and beyond, we remain shocked at the timing of Nicholas Opiyo’s arrest and the charges being instituted against him. His arrest comes at a time when he was leading Civil Society efforts to challenge cascaded attacks by state agencies against civil society organizations and initiatives, including the recent freezing of NGO accounts by the Financial Intelligence Authority.
More so, as Uganda heads to the 2021 general elections in January, there has been an increased crackdown on dissenting and opposition leaning activists. Nicholas, has been very vocal against the recent killings of civilians by the security forces who were protesting against the arrest of a presidential candidate.
UKPC therefore calls for the immediate release of Nicholas Opiyo and for the charges against him to be dropped even though he has been brought to court, remanded and matter adjourned until December 28th. UKPC wishes to reaffirm and remind the state that it has a legal obligation to protect and promote human rights, including the right to freedom of expression, and ensure that people can realize their rights without discrimination.
The arrest of human rights defenders who are working to advocate for a more peaceful and democratic society chills the work of human rights and violates the rights to freedom of association and expression. The Ugandan government must address the harm caused to the unlawful detention of Nicholas Opiyo through his unlawful detention and unjustified charges.