Activists demand independent inquiry into killing of human rights defender

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The recent killing of a human rights activist in Ntoroko District has irked human rights defenders. The activist, Erasmus Irumba, was the coordinator of the Twerwaneho Listeners’ Club (TLC) in Rwebisengo, Ntoroko District.

Irumba and his friend Vide Kanyoro were shot dead on June 23, allegedly by police officers and UPDF soldiers.

“We call on the Ugandan authorities to immediately conduct thorough, impartial, and transparent investigations into the matter, and bring the perpetrators to justice,” a joint statement by eleven human rights groups, reads in part.

The incident led to the arrest of the Ntoroko District Police Commander, Mr Gerald Atuhairwe, the District Internal Security Officer, Mr Elidard Brian Babishanga and Lt Col Richard Muhangi, the commander of the UPDF 3rd Mountain Battalion. A Special Police Constable Abdul Kyarimpa, was also arrested over the matter.

The three were arrested on June 26 on murder charges and are held at Fort Portal Central police station as investigations continue.

Police say, the suspects shot or caused the shooting of the deceased on allegations that they were selling guns.

At a press conference on June 26, police spokesperson Asan Kasingye said the suspects would be charged with murder as investigations continue.

Mr Mohammed Ndifuna, the Chairperson of the National Coalition for Human Rights Defenders – Uganda (NCHRDU) says that although the circumstances leading up to the shooting remain unclear, “there can be no doubt that Irumba Erasmus and Vide Kanyoro were victims of an extra-judicial killing.”

“The officers responsible must be held accountable regardless of their rank or branch of service. Police should conduct a thorough, transparent, and impartial investigation into the murders,” Mr Ndifuna said.

Mr Gerald Kyankya, the Executive Director of the Fort Portal-based TLC said Irumba was killed to prevent him from revealing criminal activities of some security officers in the district.
“An independent inquiry into the killings and holding accountable those responsible will send a strong statement regarding the government’s resolve to promoting and protecting human rights defenders,” the activists said in the joint statement.

The joint statement was authored by; Advocat Sans Frontieres, Defend Defenders, Defenders Protection Initiative, Chapter Four Uganda, Foundation for Human Rights Initiative, Human Rights Network Uganda, Human Rights Network for Journalists Uganda, National Coalition of Human Rights Defenders Uganda, National Coalition on Police Accountability & Security Sector Reform, Twerwaneho Listeners Club and Uganda Law Society.

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