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Article

14 May 2021

Author:
Witness Radio

Uganda: One of the seven lawyers criminalised for collecting evidence on agribusiness land grabs during pandemic narrates inhuman detention conditions

'Special Report; Abridged testimony….. Arbitrary arrested and detained for representing PAPs; an experience of the Witness Radio – Uganda lawyer', 11 May 2021

Joan Buryerali is one of the seven lawyers who were kidnapped during the COVID-19 lockdown in the Kiryandongo district... Since 2017, three multinational companies namely Great Seasons SMC Limited, ... Kiryandongo Sugar Limited ... and Agilis Partners Limited... that are illegally and forcefully evicting more than 35,000 people off their land. In March 2020, the Government of Uganda issued a directive halting any land eviction during the COVID period. However, this was disregarded... In response to the numerous distress calls, a team of seven lawyers set out to collect real evidence from individual community members affected by large-scale agricultural projects...

“We were ordered to stop whatever we were doing and jump onto police vehicles. When we tried to ask for reasons behind our kidnap, the Kiryandongo district Deputy Head of Criminal Investigation Department ... told us it was an order from above... The police cell was very horrible... There was no cleaner space for any of us to scramble... At different intervals, each of us planted our nostrils on some big hole on the door to catch some fresh air. Kiryandongo police cell was not fit for human habitant. It was unhealthy for human beings to be there. Worst of all you were told to remove our shoes and move barefoot on such a dirty floor... We could not use the sanitary facilities inside the cells. The women we found there had infections as a result of the dirty toilets...

Criminalization may be defined as the use of legal framework strategies targeting HRDs to illegitimate the work of HRDs. Its ultimate aim is to attack HRDs and/or impede their work. The criminalization of human rights defenders’ work through the misuse of criminal law involves the manipulation of the state’s punitive power by state and non-state actors to hinder their work in defense and thus prevent the legitimate exercise of their right to defend human rights..."

Part of the following stories

Uganda: Police arrest and charge seven lawyers investigating circumstances of alleged forceful eviction of locals by multinationals

Threats & attacks on rights groups and land & environmental defenders in Uganda