KAMPALA — ActionAid International has condemned the latest spate of crackdown on human rights defenders in Uganda by the government including the recent arrest of its Chairperson of the Board of Directors Mr. Nicholas Opio.
Human rights lawyer Opiyo was arrested on Tuesday afternoon in what human rights defenders say fits a pattern of increasing crackdown on dissent and attack on civil society in the country by agents of Uganda’s state security establishment as the country nears its next general election scheduled to take place next month on 14th January 2021.
“We are particularly dismayed by the timing of this arrest that comes at a time when Nicholas 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,” the ActionAid wrote in a statement, reminding the security forces and the government of Uganda of its obligation to respect and protect human rights of citizens and the rule of Law in Uganda.
“ActionAid International joins the rest civil society in Uganda and elsewhere in condemning the manner of his arrest and demand his immediate unconditional release or production in Uganda’s Courts of Law”
“We express our solidarity with his family and all civil society leaders in the country and pledge to do all in our means to ensure he and those he was arrested with achieve justice”.
National Unity Platform presidential candidate Robert Kyagulanyi, aka Bobi Wine, criticised the move.
“Distinguished human rights lawyer Nicholas Opio has been abducted from a restaurant in Kamwokya. He was abducted with other human rights lawyers who are involved in investigating and collecting evidence of the murders that occurred between 18th and 19th November, 2020 by security. According to eye witnesses, they were thrown into a van with tinted glasses, bearing private number plates.
Police said Opiyo was arrested on charges of money laundering and related malicious acts.
In a statement, police said he is being held at the Special Investigations Division in Kireka, near Kampala.
“We would like to confirm the arrest of Lawyer Nicholas Opiyo, by a Joint Task team of Security and Financial Intelligence, on allegations of money laundering and related malicious acts. The investigations are progressing well and any new developments will be communicated in due course. He remains in our custody at the Special Investigations Division,” police said.
His arrest comes days after Financial Intelligence Authority Executive Director Sydney Asubo had asked the Director of Public Prosecution [DPP] to take legal proceedings against the officials of the said NGOs under section 17A  of the Anti-Terrorism [Amendment] Act 2015.
Mr Asubo explained that they had received intelligence reports from one of the Security agencies indicating that Uganda Women’s Network [UWONET] and the National NGO Forum were involved in financing terrorism activities. FIA had also accused NGO forum of using its bank accounts in Stanbic Ban Uganda Limited to facilitate terrorism.