Donors have turned up the pressure and tasked government over the mafia-style arrest of human rights lawyer Nicholas Opiyo.
Opiyo was picked from Lamaro restaurant in Kamwokya by plained-clothed security operatives while having lunch with colleagues. For several hours, his whereabouts remained unknown until later in the evening when police confirmed that his arrest had been conducted by the Special Investigations Division on allegations of "money laundering and related malicious acts."
The US ambassador to Uganda, Natalie E. Brown describes the arrest as troubling "I just met Opiyo and was impressed by his commitment to rule of law & to uplifting his fellow citizens. News of his arrest is troubling and I call on the Ugandan Government to ensure his safety and wellbeing. Civil society must be able to carry out its essential role in Uganda," Natalie wrote.
She appreciated human rights activists and the leadership of the Uganda Law Society for shining light on human rights issues and working for a more just future to ensure all Ugandans enjoy their human rights. Several human rights organisations and officials have condemned the arrest and called for Opiyo to be brought to court immediately or be released.
The arrest of Opiyo comes a few days following his meeting with the ambassador together with the leaders of the Uganda Law Society (ULS) and other human rights activists on transparency, accountability and ending the culture of impunity so that all Ugandans can thrive.
Robert Kyagulanyi Ssentamu, the National Unity Platform presidential candidate, says Opiyo was arrested alongside other lawyers investigating the November 18th and 19th 2020 killings, in which over 50 people were shot dead during protests triggered by his arrest in Luuka district.
Kyagulanyi says Opiyo was picked together with other lawyers namely Herbert Dakasi, Anthony Odur and Esomu Obure and NUP's human rights officer, Hamid Tenywa.
"We demand for their immediate release. Defending human rights is not a crime! We know this arrest is intended to frustrate the ongoing investigations into rights violations," said Kyagulanyi.
Dr. Kizza Besigye, the former Forum for Democratic Change president also weighed in, saying that the arrest of Opiyo is not surprising since his home was broken into in September and communication devices picked."
NGOs in the human rights and governance area have been targeted for office break-ins and their bank accounts were frozen. This escalates during election periods," Besigye said.