KAMPALA – A human rights lawyer has rebuked President Museveni for downplaying the impact of the US sanctions on former Inspector General Police Gen Kale Kayihura.
On Sunday, President Museveni rose to the defence of Gen Kayihura, arguing that the US sanctions have no impact on him and Uganda at large.
However, Mr Nicholas Opiyo, a human rights lawyer, said the impact of the sanctions are far-reaching than Mr Museveni thinks.
“There’s been a misrepresentation of Kale Kayihura by the government. The US government has, in a political process, determined that he violated a global law which is the Magnitsky Act. In essence, they accuse him of having been involved in grave human torture,” Mr Opiyo said in an interview.
The Magnitsky Accountability Act was signed into law by then-President Barack Obama in December 2012, in response to human rights abuses against Russian lawyer and auditor Sergei Magnitsky. At the time of its passing, the Magnitsky Act targeted 18 Russian individuals, barring them from US entry and US bank dealings. In 2016, it was expanded to give the executive branch power to impose targeted sanctions or visa bans on individuals who have committed human rights violations anywhere in the world.
And now Mr Opiyo says the impact of the sanctions on Gen Kayihura will soon be felt.
“The impact of this is far-reaching because if Kayihura conducts any business with any USA company and it is reported, they face up to 30 years of imprisonment or a fine of up to $1 million. If Kale Kayihura feels these accusations are baseless, he has the right to appeal. However, the process of getting someone onto the Office of Foreign Assets Control (OFAC) list is tedious. It’s likely that by the time they arrive at that conclusion, these allegations are true,” he said.
The human rights lawyer also accused Mr Museveni of not being sincere in his response to the sanctions on Gen Kayihura.
“If I’m in the service of the state and I see a colleague being sanctioned and I’m probably doing worse or the same, there’ll be a pause. If you commit grave human rights violations, the regime can only protect you for a short time,” he said.
Mr Opiyo also rebuked the President for his criticisms against the impact of the International Criminal Court (ICC).
“President Museveni is behaving like a person with bipolar issues. He publicly rebukes the International Criminal Court (ICC) but privately works with them in cases that will help him. If Mr Museveni is serious about the ICC, he should start by withdrawing the Dominic Ongwen case. Museveni relies on western powers to mitigate failures in his state like the health sector,” he said.
“Kenya may never have a recurrence of what happened in 2007 primarily because of how they were dragged to the ICC. People who have tasted the hand of the ICC can never go back. Those who raise this empty claim of pan-Africanism are the same people using it to hide their deeds. President Museveni is being very clever, a tactician master. He is sending a message to his troops saying they do what they have to do because he can protect them. But regime protection is temporary; you’ll have to face the consequences of your actions now or later,” he added.
The lawyer insisted that Uganda should be happy that the failure of the Ugandan government to bring Gen Kayihura to trial is being picked up by the international community.
“We should applaud people who have come to help us put people like Kayihura to book. He made his bed, he must lay in it. He has joined a very uncomfortable list of renowned world criminals. Nicholas Opiyo: Nobody wants foreign interference but if you don’t have an efficient system to bring human rights violators to book, this is what happens. If Museveni is serious about putting Kale Kayhura on trial, there are many cases in the civil court that he has to face, like trying to lynch journalists. He should spare us the trial in the UPDF court, it’s bogus. We need to get a civilian trial for him,” he said.
“In as far as the Kale Kayihura sanction is concerned, it is done and dusted. The legal route to challenge that rule is to appeal through the OFAC website. Why is it that the USA is “nosy” now yet when they spend millions of money to help Uganda curb Ebola we don’t call them nosy? You can’t receive from one hand and refuse with the other,” he added.