Amnesty International has condemned the arrest and prosecution of Makerere University research fellow Dr Stella Nyanzi.
Dr Nyanzi was on Monday, charged with offensive communication and cyber harassment in relation to her Facebook posts attacking the government. In one of posts, the basis of charges, she called the president a “pair of buttocks”. She was remanded to Luzira prison for two weeks to allow her lawyers time to file a defence in regard to state prosecution’s application that her mental health be examined.
Dr Nyanzi denied the two charges which are contrary to sections 24 (1)(2)(a) and 25 of the Computer Misuse Act 2011.
Muthoni Wanyeki, Amnesty International’s Regional Director for East Africa, the Horn and the Great Lakes region in a statement released today evening said government should drop all charges and unconditionally release Dr Nyanzi.
“Arresting (Dr Stella) Nyanzi simply for criticising the President and his wife serves no legitimate purpose. The state should stop wasting resources on pointless and politically-motivated prosecutions, immediately drop all charges against her and release her unconditionally,” she said. “The Authorities must also immediately revoke the Computer Misuse Act, and respect, protect, promote and fulfill the right to freedom of expression of all Ugandans.”
The controversial researcher has been using obscenity in her writing on her Facebook account criticizing President Museveni and her wife Janet Museveni for failure to provide sanitary pads to school going girls as promised during last year’s presidential campaigns. She was arrested on Friday evening from Mackinnon Suites Hotel in Nakasero after speaking at a Rotary Club event.
Muthoni noted that “lack of sanitary towels is one of the leading causes of girls dropping out of school in Uganda.” She argued that Dr Nyanzi has led a campaign to ensure girls continue to attend school with dignity during their periods but is being harassed, intimidated and arrested instead of commending her.
She noted that her prosecution violates Uganda’s obligations regarding the right to freedom of expression as enshrined in the Constitution and other regional as well as international human rights law.