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UGANDA: Lawyer Patrick Mugisha arrested at his workplace without an arrest warrant, missing for 5 days


Patrick Mugisha, a lawyer with the law firm Mwesige Mugisha & Co Advocates, was arrested by alleged security agents on Wednesday 31 July 2019 in his office in Muyenga, a suburb of Kampala. According to the Uganda Law Society (ULS), security guards from the Internal Security Organization (ISO) came in a van and took him away from his office without informing his family members or colleagues of the reason for the arrest.

The ULS gave ISO Director Colonel Frank Kaka Bagyenda until Wednesday, August 7 to release or prosecute the detained lawyer. ULS President Simon Peter M. Knobe accused Colonel Bagyenda of usurping the powers of other security agencies and acting with impunity by kidnapping, intimidating, harassing and arresting lawyers for no reason. In its letter of 3 August 2019, the ULS recalls that they have repeatedly called on the organisation to stop kidnappings, intimidation, harassment and arrests of Ugandans and in particular lawyers.

The ULS also recalls that articles 2 and 23 (4) of the Constitution grant suspects the right to be brought before a court within 48 hours of their arrest.

The ULS has issued a Twitter (@ug_lawsociety) call for action against the internal security organisation and its director to stop the illegal arrest and detention of lawyers.

[Update : The lawyer was released on the night of August 4. Mugisha stated that he had been unconditionally released because no charges had been brought against him. He called on the government to stop the illegal arrests.]

The IOLD supports lawyer Patrick Mugisha and the Uganda Bar Association in their efforts.

The IOLD calls on the authorities to comply with the United Nations’ Basic Principles on the Role of Lawyers, according to which :

  • Governments shall ensure that lawyers (a) are able to perform all of their professional functions without intimidation, hindrance, harassment or improper interference; (…) (c) shall not suffer, or be threatened with, prosecution or administrative, economic or other sanctions for any action taken in accordance with recognized professional duties, standards and ethics” (Principle n°16);
  • Where the security of lawyers is threatened as a result of discharging their functions, they shall be adequately safeguarded by the authorities” (Principle n°17).