On 14 May 2014, human rights defenders and colleagues Mr Moses Omiat and Ms Monica Apilo remain confined to their respective homes for the seventh consecutive day since unidentified armed men came to their offices in an attempt to attack them.
Two days before, police protection provided at the homes of the human rights defenders was removed without explanation and no progress has been made in identifying the attackers.
Moses Omiat is the coordinator for the Soroti Development Association & NGOs Network (SODANN), and Monica Apilo is the organisation’s program assistant in charge of capacity-building and transitional justice. SODANN is a human rights organisation founded in 1994 to facilitate the creation of a collective voice of civil society organisations in Eastern Uganda. SODANN has a particular focus on transitional justice and land rights.
The two human rights defenders have been advised by the police not to leave their residences since an attempted attack on 7 May 2014. The police protection granted to Moses Omiat and Monica Apilo at their homes by the Soroti District Police Commander on 8 May 2014 was removed on 12 May 2014 without explanation. It had been agreed that a policeman would guard the houses during the investigation.
On the afternoon of 7 May 2014, two unidentified men came to SODANN’s offices and asked the volunteer at reception for the location of the coordinator, Moses Omiat. When the volunteer did not provide the information, the attackers demanded to see Monica Apilo, but the volunteer stated that neither of the human rights defenders had been in the office for some time. The men became angry, stated that the volunteer was lying, and one of the men pulled a SMG gun from a bag he was carrying. The attackers ordered the volunteer to lay his head on a table and to close his eyes. The gun was pointed at the volunteer’s head, but when he still failed to provide the whereabouts of the human rights defenders, the men left on a motorbike. At the time of the attack, Moses Omiat and Monica Apilo were approximately 300m from the office, leading a workshop organised by SODANN. It is believed the assailants had no knowledge of the workshop.
The local police were immediately notified of the incident. They came to SODANN’s offices, interviewed the witnesses, and a formal complaint for “threatening violence” was entered against “unknown suspects.” At approximately 6pm that evening, another man on a motorbike arrived at the SODANN office claiming that he had been sent to pick up an old woman there. Police officers, who were still present, ordered the man to take them to see the person who had sent him. However, when the police went to search for that man, he could not be found.
SODANN reports that, since November 2013, it has been the victim of various threats, including threatening anonymous telephone calls, break-ins at the homes of staff, and thefts targeting its offices. SODANN has reported most of the incidents, but the threats continue. Front Line Defenders expresses its concern at the fact that Moses Omiat and Monica Apilo have been confined to their homes without police protection due to the attempted attack, which represents an escalation in the targeting of SODANN and its staff.
Front Line Defenders believes that the attempted attack relates solely to the peaceful and legitimate human rights work of the human rights defenders, in particular concerning land rights and transitional justice.