Ugandan Police Violating Laws in Aftermath of Poll, Group Says

  • House arrest of opposition leader thwarted results challenge
  • Police arbitrarily arresting, detaining, beating critics

Uganda’s police force is violating opposition and media rights in the aftermath of last month’s disputed election in which President Yoweri Museveni won a mandate to extend his three-decade rule, Human Rights Watch said.

The house arrest of main opposition leader Kizza Besigye a day after the Feb. 18 vote, arbitrary arrests of critics and assaults on journalists reporting on the detained leader violate basic human rights, Maria Burnett, the New York-based group’s senior researcher for Africa, said Friday in an e-mailed statement.

“The police are violating the opposition’s and the media’s basic rights protected under international law and as well as under Uganda’s constitution,” she said. “That those who peacefully express critical views can be arbitrarily arrested, detained, and beaten makes everyone vulnerable to abuse.”

Museveni, 71, who’s ruled Africa’s biggest coffee exporter since January 1986, won the Feb. 18 election with 61 percent of the vote, according to the Electoral Commission. Besigye, who was second with 35 percent, and former Prime Minister Amama Mbabazi, third with 1.4 percent, are among four of Museveni’s seven challengers who rejected the results.

Besigye’s detention and the authorities preventing lawyers from visiting him thwarted his plan to petition against the results within the mandated time of 10 days after the results declaration on Feb. 20, Burnett said. Police spokesman Fred Enanga and his deputy didn’t answer calls seeking comment.

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