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Uganda: Government Brings Treason Charges Against Six Opposition Supporters

(June 29, 2011) Reuters reported on June 28, 2011, that the Ugandan government has brought six individuals, said to be opposition supporters, before a court in Kampala on treason charges. (Elias Biryabarema, Uganda Charges Six with Treason for Rebel Recruitment, REUTERS (June 28, 2011).) Speaking to a reporter, Police Director of Criminal Investigations Edward Ochom said that the charges are based on evidence uncovered while investigating the murder of a former rebel leader. However, he refused to provide further details. (Id.)

If convicted, the accused individuals may face the death penalty. Treason – which includes, among other acts, waging war against Uganda, assassinating or attempting to assassinate the President, or plotting a coup against the government – is a capital offense. (Penal Code, Act, § 23, VI LAWS OF UGANDA, Cap. 120 (rev. ed. 2000), available at World Intellectual Property Organization website (last visited June 28, 2011).)

Critics of the government's action, chief among them Anne Mugisha, Deputy Foreign Secretary of the Forum for Democratic Change (website, last visited June 28, 2011), the largest opposition party in Uganda, insist that this is a ploy to stifle genuine opposition. (Biryabarema, supra.) Mugisha cited as a typical example of what she views as bogus government charges the case brought against Kizza Besigye, her party's flag bearer in the 2011 presidential elections. He challenged and lost to President Yoweri Museveni in that contest. Besigye, along with ten other individuals, had been charged with treason in 2005. (Id.) He was exonerated by the Constitutional Court in October 2010. (Uganda Court Quashes Besigye Treason Charges, BBC NEWS (Oct. 12, 2010).)