Group: Uganda gov't harassing, repressing critics

AP News
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Posted: Nov 01, 2011 10:22 AM
Group: Uganda gov't harassing, repressing critics

A new report from an international rights group released Tuesday said that government-backed harassment and repression of critics are increasing in Uganda. A government spokesman called the accusations exaggerated and unfounded.

The report from Amnesty International said that Uganda's government and public officials are placing illegitimate restrictions on freedom of expression. Amnesty said that journalists, opposition politicians and activists face arbitrary arrest, intimidation and politically motivated criminal charges.

Uganda has seen a wave of "walk to work" demonstrations by opposition supporters this year to protest high prices and government corruption. Many of the demonstrations have turned violent. The most recent protest, on Monday, resulted in the arrest of opposition leader Kizza Besigye.

In demonstrations in April and May, police opened fire on protesters, killing nine people.

"The government's position ... has been to effectively outlaw all forms of public demonstrations, rallies or assemblies in the wake of the 2011 general elections and especially those which criticize the electoral process, current government policies and the conduct of public officials," Amnesty said.

Amnesty said that journalists were physically assaulted before, during and after Uganda's February elections by police, political aides or political supporters. Police often failed to investigate such complaints, the group said.

Besigye ran against Ugandan President Yoweri Museveni in those elections but lost for a third straight election to the 25-year leader. Besigye has said he believes the results were falsified.

Tamale Mirundi, a spokesman for Museveni, said groups like Amnesty International "exaggerate about human rights abuse in Uganda and Africa at large so they get funds from donors."

"No one in Uganda is on detention order. There is no political prisoner in Uganda. No journalist is imprisoned in Uganda. What human rights abuse are they talking about?" he said.

Meanwhile, a political aide to Besigye said Tuesday that several youths attacked Besigye's home. The aide, Anne Mugisha, blamed the government for sending the youths _ she labeled them "goons" _ to Besigye's countryside home.

Police spokeswoman Judith Nabakooba denied that police sent the youths to harass Besigye.

"We have no time to hire youths to beat up Besigye. We have our medicine for Besigye and that is preventive arrest," she said.