Kampala, 25th /November/2016, For the first time in the history of Uganda, the Uganda government and Internet Service Providers have been dragged to the courts of law for violating online freedoms during the double internet shutdown earlier this year. The suit filed by the Unwanted Witness through M/s. Rwakafuuzi & Co. Advocates seeks for a permanent injunction against the perpetrators because their actions violated fundamental human rights, contravened national, regional and international legal frameworks.
The law suit follows a double internet interference suffered by Ugandans earlier this year on grounds of national security where the regulator the Uganda Communication Commission (UCC) claims to have acted on directives. The first shutdown occurred on 17th of February on the eve of presidential and parliamentary elections while the second incident happened on 11th May, a day before the president’s inaugural ceremony for another term in office.
Unwanted Witness wants court to deter re-occurrence of such acts of impunity. We further want court to pronounce that these unprecedented internet shutdowns are illegal since they violate the rights of Ugandan citizens and residents to the freedom of speech and expression as guaranteed by articles 29 (1) (a) of the constitution of Uganda, 9 of the African Charter on Human and people’s rights, 19 (2) of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights and article 19 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights.
“The government and business sector in Uganda are mandated to respect the constitution and other international legal frameworks by upholding and respecting the human rights of all citizens. The rule of law should prevail and therefore want court to bring the violators to order and end this impunity,” Says, Jeff Wokulira Ssebaggala, the Unwanted Witness Chief Executive Officer.
He said these shutdowns do not only violate fundamental human rights but also deter investment and reduce business confidence as well as profits whose actions have chilling effects on the national economy.
Ssebaggala emphasized that the court’s intervention to enforce the enjoyment of online fundamental freedoms and rights is timely not only as a tool for safeguarding citizens’ digital rights but also as a mechanism for upholding good governance, transparency and accountability.
The law suit covers 10 respondents including the Attorney general of Uganda, Uganda Communications Commission, MTN Uganda ltd, Airtel (U) ltd, Smile telecom (U) ltd, Vodafone (U) ltd and Africell among others.
The high court, Kampala Civil division has set 3rd February 2017 at 9:30am as hearing date for the matter.
Unwanted witness Uganda is a civil society organization that advocates for open, secure and accessible Internet that contributes to the realization of human rights and good governance in Uganda.