UGANDA should stop the abductions of opposition supporters and release those illegally detained, New York-based Human Rights Watch said on Thursday, adding to pressure on President Yoweri Museveni to end a crackdown on dissidents.
In recent months, hundreds of supporters of opposition leader and pop star Bobi Wine have been seized and some tortured by state agents, according to his National Unity Platform (NUP).
Wine, 39, whose real name is Robert Kyagulanyi, lost to Museveni in a Jan. 14 presidential election marred by widespread violence. He rejected the results, claiming he won.
This week, he urged supporters to demonstrate, prompting deployment of security personnel in the capital Kampala. Museveni’s government says Wine is trying to destabilize Uganda via violent and illegal protests.
“Ugandan authorities should take immediate steps to end the ongoing abductions by suspected state agents and cease the unlawful detention without trial of opposition supporters,” Human Rights Watch (HRW) said in a statement.
The rights group said witnesses described to investigators how non-uniformed armed men picked up people from streets and homes and shoved them into vans without license plates.
Some victims said their abductors beat and detained them in unmarked buildings for grilling over their political affiliation and involvement in protests.
“The recent spate of enforced disappearances has only compounded the intense climate of fear in Uganda following the recent violent national elections,” said Oryem Nyeko, Africa researcher at Human Rights Watch.
Uganda police spokesman Fred Enanga told Reuters he could not comment because they had not seen the HRW report.
This month NUP released a list of more than 400 supporters it said were still missing or had been released after abduction, some bearing torture marks.
In November, at least 54 people died as security personnel battled to quell protests.
The United States has said it is exploring ways to punish Ugandan security forces involved in crackdowns while the European Union parliament has also called for sanctions.