Robert Amsterdam, founding partner of Amsterdam & Partners LLP which represents Robert Kyagulanyi (Bobi Wine) has published an opinion article in The Guardian calling for the international community to take swift and determined action via the Global Magnitsky Act. Excerpt below:
President Yoweri Museveni, who has ruled Uganda since 1986, has breezily dismissed the treatment of Wine, calling the whole affair “fake news”. How the international community responds to Uganda in this moment is crucial – and the ruling party is betting on short attention spans and crisis fatigue to move on to other concerns. But the next generation of Ugandans deserves a more serious international response, as Wine’s plight is quickly becoming a symbol of the deplorable state of human rights in the country.
Although Wine was originally arrested over “obstructing a motorcade”, after stones were thrown at the president’s car, more charges were slapped together, including illegal possession of a firearm (although no such firearm was ever found). Despite being a matter for the civil courts, he was put into military detention until, on Thursday, the state dropped the gun charges – only to have him re-arrested and charged with treason along with the other three MPs. Wine is in jail because of who he is, not anything he may have done.
Over the course of his detention, Wine has allegedly been subjected to horrific abuse. According to accounts by his family, his face, torso, legs and genitals have been subjected to repeated heavy punches and kicks by UPDF soldiers. He has informed his wife that he has been given so many injections of unknown drugs by unknown people that he lost count, and consciousness, awakening only when he was wheeled into his arraignment hearing on 16 August – disoriented and unable to stand or speak. (…)
Wine is in many ways an unlikely figure to become a symbol of opposition. He is new to politics, only winning his seat as an independent last year, and is not tied to one of the major opposition parties. There are many other longtime challengers in the opposition who have suffered similarly for years. Kizza Besigye, of the Forum for Democratic Change, has been attacked, threatened, physically abused and sent before military courts many times – in fact, he was arrested again hours after Wine was charged with treason.
His also may not be the worst case. Francis Zaake, the Mityana MP, was arrested on the same day, and UPDF agents allegedly tied a rope around his neck and beat him unconscious. He’s been unable to leave his hospital bedbecause of dislocated discs in his back and a severely injured neck. In September last year, the MP Betty Nambooze had her spine snapped in an attack by state agents – and that happened inside parliament. The stories go on and on.
Nevertheless, Wine’s case has captivated national attention in a unique way. As the “ghetto president”, Wine has unprecedented appeal among young people, allowing many disenchanted Ugandans to identify with him and participate in the political sphere. If he is dragged off, beaten, and tortured by UPDF thugs, his supporters feel it – and they will not back down.
It is the responsibility of the international community to take action to halt the human rights abuses in Uganda. Uganda is in clear violation of the international covenant on civil and political rights, the UN convention against torture, the African Charter of Human Rights of the African Union, and a number of other international treaties. It is an important moment to demand the immediate release of these political prisoners, the dropping of all false charges, and the reinstatement of their basic political rights to free association and freedom of expression. Our law firm, acting on behalf of Wine, is calling for the application of the Global Magnitsky Act against state officials responsible for these human rights violations.
Read the full article at The Guardian here. To donate to his legal defence fund, please click here.