Activists condemn police over raiding CSO offices

Thursday September 28 2017

Search. Police officers at the ActionAid offices in Kampala last week. FILE PHOTO


Human rights defenders have condemned the manner in which the Police force raided Civil Society Organisations (CSOs) offices, saying the move did not comply with the legal provisions.
Under their umbrella body, the National Coalition of Human Rights Defenders Uganda (NCHRD-U), the activists said they ‘were shocked and saddened’ by the police action.
Last week, the police raided the offices of ActionAid in Kansanga and Great Lakes Initiative on Strategic Studies (Gliss) in Ntinda, Kampala.
Solidarity Uganda in Lira was also raided on September 21 and police arrested one member of staff, Dickens Otim.
For the raids in Kampala, police had search warrants issued by the Chief Magistrate’s Court of Makindye. The force said the purpose of the search was to obtain evidence to illicit transfer of funds for unlawful activities.
In the statement issued yesterday, human rights defenders said although the legal framework provides for offences and penalties in the event non-governmental organisations (NGOs) fail to adhere or are in conflict with the law, the police acted to the contrary.
Under Section 41 (6), the NGO Act provides for the time in which inspections can be carried out as ranging from 8am-5pm on working days.
Further still, Regulation 33 and 34 of the NGO Regulations 2017, provides for an inspector who has power to access any premises, confiscate any documents including interviewing and recording statements from any person.
“We wish to therefore state that in raiding the above organisations, the police force did not comply with the set legal standards but were rather uncivil, high handed and kept staff until the following day with the exception of a few cases which in our view was inhuman and degrading treatment,” the NCHRD-U said.
They appealed to the police force to uphold the rule of law, desist from high handed methods and uphold Article 221 of the Constitution.
The defenders said the law calls upon all security agencies to uphold human rights because civil society is not an enemy of the state but a partner in development.
The ActionAid and Gliss have been vocal against the lifting of the presidential age limit from the Constitution.

Past raids

September 2, 2012. Foundation for Human Rights Initiative (FHRI) offices were broken into and Shs45million was stolen alongside other items including: 11 Samsung mobile phones, 11 laptop computers, and several land tittles for clients, one projector and a hard drive for the backup computer.
October 10, 2013. Anti-Corruption Coalition Uganda were raided by unknown people who made away with five desk-top computers, eight laptops, the internet server and about Shs7m after vandalising the safe.
May 5, 2014. The offices of the Human Rights Network Uganda (HURINET) were raided by unknown people who made away with vital documents, 25 Dell Monitors, three projectors, four laptops and four Sony Cameras.
June 29 2015. Human Rights Network for Journalists (HRNJ-Uganda) offices were raided by unidentified people. The organisation lost vital information and equipment. Also, Shs5m and travel documents were stolen.
May 22, 2016. Intruders broke into the offices of the Human Rights Awareness and Promotion Forum (HRAPF). The guard was killed. Compiled by Johnson Mayamba