Alert: Keep track of all human rights news on our website and social media!
Uganda
26.12.19
Urgent Interventions

Two defenders who testified in the trial against Total are at risk in Uganda

Paris-Geneva,December 26, 2019 - The two Ugandan witnesses who testified in France on December12 in the trial against Total for its activities in Uganda[1] now have clear reasons to fear for their lives, after furtherintimidation and threatening acts upon their return to Uganda and to theirvillage. Friends of the Earth France, Survie and the Observatory for theProtection of Human Rights Defenders (a FIDH-OMCT partnership) express theirdeep concern for their physical and moral integrity and call for an immediateend to all forms of persecution.

Unknownmen attempted to break into farmer FredMwesigwa's house late on thenight of December 23 and again the following night, forcing through the metaldoors and wooden structures of his house, which fortunately held. After theirsecond failure, these men locked Fred Mwesigwa into his house with padlocks. Asa result of these attacks, he was able to take refuge yesterday in a secretlocation.

Thepressure began as soon as the two witnesses arrived at the Kampala airport:community leader Jelousy Mugisha was arrested and questioned fornearly nine hours[2]. But it has reached another level since their return home to Buliisa,in the heart of the area where Total is working to develop a mega oil project.

Atthe same time, according to various local informants, Moses Ogamhogwa, a TotalUganda employee based in Buliisa, whom Total SA brought to France for theDecember 12 hearing at the Nanterre High Court, is allegedly spreading falseinformation to the community about Jelousy Mugisha. Indeed, the head ofrelations with the affected communities allegedly reported that Jelousy Mugishahad lied during his testimony in France. In addition to threatening JelousyMugisha, this misinformation to the communities creates a deleterious climateof confusion and fear.

Accordingto Thomas Bart, a Survie activist who coordinated the on-site investigation,"Although there is no evidence to incriminate Total and itssubcontractors, if anything were to happen to our witnesses, it would beperceived on-site as retaliation and would reinforce the idea that it is notpossible to oppose the oil giant when it threatens the rights of thepopulations".

ForJuliette Renaud, campaign manager for Friends of the Earth France, "Thesenew intimidations are likely to dissuade those affected from asserting theirrights, which is unacceptable. We are genuinely concerned for the safety ofthese two witnesses, and potentially for the safety of other members of theircommunities."

Forthe Observatory for the Protection of Human Rights Defenders, "thesafety of defenders must be guaranteed, otherwise Total should not agree tomove forward on this project".

Survie,Friends of the Earth France and the Observatory remain attentive to thesituation of the witnesses and call for their immediate securing.


[1] Total Uganda: historic first hearing on the dutyof care, December 12, 2019: https://www.amisdelaterre.org/Total-Ouganda-premiere-audience-historique-sur-le-devoir-de-vigilance.html

[2] Further intimidation of one of the Uganda witnesses in the trial against Total in Paris : https://www.amisdelaterre.org/Nouvelle-intimidation-d-un-des-temoins-ougandais-venu-dans-le-cadre-du-proces.html and Arbitrary detention and release of Mr. JelousyMugisha following his testimony in France in a case against Total : https://www.fidh.org/en/issues/human-rights-defenders/uganda-arbitrary-detention-and-release-of-mr-jelousy-mugisha & https://www.omct.org/fr/human-rights-defenders/urgent-interventions/uganda/2019/12/d25643/

Sign up now

Subscribe to our latest news & alerts