Safeguarding Human Rights Defenders during COVID-19
A Strategic Emergency Response Initiative seeking to establish and coordinate a joint mechanism that offers effective emergency response solutions to the dynamic and complex HRDs security needs associated with the working environment in Uganda, especially during this COVID-19 Pandemic.
Cognizant that Uganda has registered some progress in managing the situation and infection rate, these achievements have not gone without a challenge. The majority of non-governmental organizations have had to adapt to the new normal of working from home according to the respective guidelines. Therefore, our civic effort to push back against human rights violations has been curtailed since all attempts to support affected HRDs, activists, and non-governmental organizations have been stifled by the hostile civic space’s attendant elements.
HRDs and individual activists who speak truth to power during this Pandemic are highly susceptible to physical and digital security attacks. These attacks include but are not limited to intimidation, arrest, torture, killings, withdrawal of operation license, defamation, freezing of bank accounts, office closure, computer and network surveillance, office break-ins, theft and confiscation of digital equipment, loss of information, denial of service attacks and internet censorship.
Despite such hostilities, there is a lack of an inclusive, well-coordinated, sustainable and effective emergency response system geared at security, safety, and protection of the HRDs/groups and the allies during this period. Albeit the availability of the several organizations and entities that support HRDs in such instances, a reasonable number of democracy activists within and out of the capital city have on various forums referred to the available emergence response system as ineffective, unsustainable, inaccessible, individualistic, to mention but a few.
We strongly believe that the current and post-pandemic period will require response through concerted effort. Thus, it is imperative to take stock of partner organizations’ possible roles as strategies for responding to any emerging issues.