As the COVID19 lockdown continues in Uganda, the abuse of human rights and brutal treatment of citizens intensifies. Throughout this week, we have observed several human rights defenders and other citizens arrested and brutalized by security personnel.  Our chapter members in Isingiro district, Western Uganda were unlawfully arrested and asked to pay money in order to be released yet the police could not point out why they had been arrested in the first place. Extortion of money from citizens has become a common vice amongst the security personnel especially the police in these difficult times. Those caught past the curfew hours just have to pay a few shillings to the security personnel for their ‘freedom’.  The under-trained Local Defense Units (LDUs) have increasingly misused their guns shooting innocent civilians and claiming their lives yet they remain armed and a danger to those they are meant to protect.

Our mothers (the majority of whom are single mothers), sisters, and wives who also vend fruits as a source of livelihood in Lira town- Northern Uganda are being brutalized by the police under the pretext of upholding the COVID19 directives. They were arrested under the directive of the Lira DPC Mugerwa Benard who is also degrading this case and the insistence of the abuse of human rights involved here.

Since the majority of the women cannot afford the 100,000/- cash bail granted to them by the Lira chief magistrates Court, they remain detained in Kwania prison leaving their children without food and unattended to. Such inequality!

We understand the filth and rot in Lira prisons because some of our staff have been unlawfully and unfairly detained there with no respect and dignity. We understand the pain these helpless women who committed no crime other than fend for their families are being subjected to.

Our Rapid Response network is helping in the mobilization of several lawyers around the country to represent these women.  We applaud the different lawyers from the Lango sub-region and beyond who are selflessly availing themselves to fight such battles. With the restriction on travel due to the COVID19 national directives, it has become difficult to move from one region to another. We are grateful that the Uganda Law Society has offered to provide transport for some of the lawyers who wish to travel from Kampala to Lira to help the women.

We call upon the government of Uganda, the Police Force, the army and all other security agencies to STOP this oppression and brutality. Human rights must be respected. We also ask all our comrades to join us in this call. We must not give up! Let’s build our power together.

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