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[16days_discussion] Fwd: INTERNATIONAL COALITION CONDEMNS HUMAN RIGHTS VIOLATIONS AGAINST W.O.N.E.T.H.A

radha paudel rpaudel456 at gmail.com
Wed Aug 1 02:05:14 EDT 2012


FYI

---------- Forwarded message ----------
From: Philippa <philippa at apwld.org>
Date: 31 July 2012 16:47
Subject: INTERNATIONAL COALITION CONDEMNS HUMAN RIGHTS VIOLATIONS AGAINST
W.O.N.E.T.H.A
To: Philippa <philippa at apwld.org>


 ** **

** **

*International Coalition condemns human rights violations against
W.O.N.E.T.H.A, urging the government of Uganda to stop criminalising human
rights defenders working on behalf of women sex-workers***

** **

** **

12th July 2012 ****

** **

The Women Human Rights Defenders International Coalition (WHRD IC) has
expressed deep concern regarding the safety of five staff from the Uganda
sex worker organization, Women’s Organization Network for Human Rights
Advocacy (WONETHA). The staff members face ongoing harassment and criminal
charges.****

** **

According to information received by the coalition, five of WONETHA’s
members have been charged with “living on the earnings of
prostitution”[1]<#138dcb40040a81cb__ftn1>.
The five women are due to appear in court for a third time on 31 July 2012
after their previous hearings had been adjourned and if found guilty at
they face up to seven years in prison.****

** **

The charges followed a raid by police officers on the WONETHA Drop in
Center in Gulu town, on May 7 2012. Authorities confiscated documents,
computers and other material from the center. They also read personal
emails and correspondence. The raid took place without a
warrant.[2]<#138dcb40040a81cb__ftn2>Two members of WONETHA staff were
arrested at the scene and three further
women were later arrested at the police offices when they went to visit
their friends and colleagues. The arrests received attention from local
media and the police presented the women as being likely guilty of the
charges brought against them. ****

** **

The women were held at the police offices and were not informed that they
were under official arrest or given details as to the charges against them.
It was not until the 9 May when the women had to give their formal
statements in the presence of legal representation that they were able to
receive any proper information. At this time their lawyers were able to
question the authorities and get some answers concerning the charges
brought against the women. ****

** **

WHRD IC believes the detention, seizure and raid on the organization’s
offices were arbitrary. They also consider the act of arresting and
charging WONETHA’s staff members as an attempt to criminalize the legal
activities of a women human rights organization. WHRD IC assert that this
behaviour is based solely on discrimination against sex workers, the
community WONETHA serves.****

** **

The raid of the office, the seizure and the detention of staff constitutes
a violation of  international and regional human rights laws that Uganda is
signatory to, including the UN Convention on the Elimination of All Forms
of Discrimination against Women (CEDAW), the International Covenant on
Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR) and *the African Charter on Human and
Peoples’ Rights*. The presentation of the five staff members of WONETHA to
the media has already exposed them to unwarranted publicity which affects
the presumption of their innocence. ****

** **

Since its very beginning WONETHA has sought to improve the health, social
and economic wellbeing of adult sex workers in Uganda. WONETHA values and
respects the rights of sex workers who want to exit, and prepares them to
start new livelihood enterprises. ****

** **

For those women still in the sex industry, WONETHA lobbies for their
protection. Because of this work WONETHA has been attacked by both the
Uganda’s authorities[3] <#138dcb40040a81cb__ftn3> and in turn, the general
public, damaging their image and reputation. The organization has been
fasley accused of recruiting women and girls into prostitution and the
drop-in Center has been falsely identified as a brothel.****

** **

The African Commission on Human and People’s Rights (ACHPR) in 2009
expressed its concern over “the increased threats and harassment faced by
human rights defenders” in Uganda. ****

** **

WHRD IC urges the authorities to drop the charges against the five women
and calls upon the Ugandan government to fulfil their commitments under
international human rights law and to respect the UN Declaration on Human
Rights Defenders, to ensure that women human rights defenders are able to
carry out their legitimate activities without fear of harassment,
intimidation and arrest. ****

** **

** **

Therefore, the WHRD IC calls on Ugandan government to: ****

** **

**1)    **Immediately drop the charges against them.  ****

**2)    **Carry out an immediate and impartial investigation into the raid
on the WONETHA Drop in Centre and the arrest of its staff, and ensure that
perpetrators are brought to justice.****

**3)    **Ensure that effective measures are implemented to allow WONETHA’s
Drop-in Center in Gulu to continue with its work as a women’s human rights
organization. ****

**4)    **Ensure all necessary measures are implemented to ensure the
physical and psychological integrity of WONETHA’s members, including
preventing attacks against them based on gender stereotypes and
discrimination. ****

**5)    **Ensure that all the necessary measures are implemented to stop
the criminalization of women human rights defenders of sex workers based on
discriminatory reasons, in accordance with CEDAW and ACHPR, including
through legislative reforms. ****

** **

** **

** **

*The Women Human Rights Defenders International Coalition (WHRD IC) is a
resource and advocacy network for the protection and support of women human
rights defenders worldwide.*

** **

** **

** **

------------------------------

[1] <#138dcb40040a81cb__ftnref1> Section 136 of the Penal Code Act cap120***
*
  [2] <#138dcb40040a81cb__ftnref2> Association for Progress Communication
(APC), “Digital Security: Drop-in centre of Ugandan sex worker organisation
raided”, 11 May 2012.
http://www.apc.org/en/news/digital-security-drop-centre-ugandan-sex-worker-or.
" Article 5.1 of APC’s Internet Rights Charter insists that “the right to
data protection public or private organisations that require personal
information from individuals must collect only the minimal data necessary
and for the minimal period of time needed. They must only process data for
the minimal stated purposes.” ****

[3] <#138dcb40040a81cb__ftnref3> From Deputy RDC Gulu District in New
Vision of June 6th 2012 , Rev Fr. Simon Lokodo, among others.   ****

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