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Author arrested for publishing book that called for president to step down

(HRNJ-Uganda/IFEX) - 21 September 2011 - Vincent Nzaramba, the author of a book that called for President Yoweri Museveni to relinquish power, is in detention at the feared Rapid Response Unit (RRU) headquarters in Kireka, a Kampala suburb.

Nzaramba, who published a book under the title "People Power: Battle the Mighty General", was arrested on 17 September by about 10 plain-clothed security operatives at his home in Kampala district.

This was Nzaramba's second book. His first book was published in January 2011. The first book focused on the National Resistance Movement Organisation (NRM-O) manifesto, which Nzaramba used when he was contesting for the Kawempe South parliamentary seat in recent general elections.

Human Rights Network for Journalists-Uganda (HRNJ-Uganda) has learnt that before the arrest, Nzaramba received a call at 8:30 a.m. (local time) from his colleague, Musa Bwanika, who allegedly informed him that there was somebody who wanted to talk to him. Nzaramba immediately went to Bwanika's residence. Eyewitnesses told HRNJ-Uganda that Nzaramba returned home at around 1:30 p.m. in a convoy of two police vehicles. "They searched his home for about two hours and confiscated 106 copies of the book and receipts indicating that he received US$300 through Western Union". He was later driven away to RRU headquarters in Kireka. Since his arrest on 17 September, he has been detained in Kireka without charge and has not made a statement.

When he met his wife Gloria in the company of his lawyer, Anthony Wameli, on 20 September, Nzaramba alleged that he had been tortured, and that the torture was orchestrated by Musa Walugembe, an RRU officer. Nzarambe has reportedly started a hunger strike to protest the threats and poor treatment he has received. He claims that operatives had threatened to shoot him. "He told us that upon arriving at the RRU on 17 September, operative asked him to remove his shoes and he was forced to step on a sharp object, which caused a big cut on his left foot", said his wife, Gloria.

Article 24 of the 1995 Constitution of the Republic of Uganda states that "No person shall be subjected to any form of torture or cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment".

HRNJ-Uganda has been reliably informed that at midnight on 19 September, operatives drove Nzaramba to the premises of a printing press located at Nasser Road in Kampala, but it was closed at that time. Sources added that a lawyer based at the RRU told the family that he didn't know that the suspect had been in detention for longer than the 48-hour period permitted in the constitution.

"The police are illegally detaining Nzaramba because he has not disowned the opinions expressed in the book. We query the actions of an institution that is supposed to keep law and order because it abuses the same laws it should protect. It's very clear that the police are violating the law with impunity and the top commanders of the RRU should be held responsible for these actions", said HRNJ-Uganda Programme Coordinator Geoffrey Wokulira Ssebaggala.

HRNJ-Uganda condemns, in the strongest terms possible, the continued detention and persecution of Nzaramba for expressing his opinion. We call for the intervention of the United Nations Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights and the Uganda Human Rights Commission to invoke their mandate over protecting people's rights and freedoms.

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