UK Human Rights Lawyers Call Upon UK Foreign Office to Press for Immediate Release of Ugandan Human Rights Lawyer Nicholas Opiyo
Nigel Edwards QC, Head of International Law, Human Rights and Civil Liberties, and Dr S Chelvan, Head of Immigration and Public Law at 33 Bedford Row Chambers, call upon the UK Foreign Office to support the call for the immediate release of Ugandan Human Rights Lawyer, Nicholas Opiyo. Mr Opiyo is known as a leading lawyer for gay rights in Uganda, a country where the LGBTI+ community face daily threats and persecution from the President Museveni government leading to individuals fleeing to the UK, to seek asylum.
Opiyo was arrested on 22nd December and charged, without due process with Money laundering and is currently remanded in Kitalya Prison in Mityana District until 28 December, when the High Court will hear his case (link to Guardian news story). He is a vocal unwavering supporter of the LGBT+ community in Uganda, and has recently been very outspoken about his concerns about the ‘abuse of due process and curtailment of human rights in the context of political campaigns”.
Speaking about the continued detention of Mr Opiyo, Nigel Edwards QC says: It is our understanding that these charges are brought merely to silence a leading activist lawyer and that such fabrication together with arbitrary detention must not be allowed to pass without significant international challenge. We at 33 Bedford Row will offer all and any necessary assistance that we can and stand foursquare behind Opiyo and those who assist and advise him. Clare Byarugaba, a leading LGBTI rights Activist in charge of the Equality and NonDiscrimination Program at Chapter Four Uganda said on Sunday in support of 33 Bedford Rows’ statement: In 2016, I was arrested and detained arbitrarily alongside other activists after a police raid on a Gay Pride event I will never forget the relief and certainty I felt when Nicholas showed up at the police station at 2am in the morning after I called him for legal support. His presence was the beacon of light I needed to know we would be released from illegal detention before the sun came up the next morning. Nicholas is a true definition of an LGBTI Ally, and while we work tirelessly to get him back home a free man through legal means, We need International pressure to help us succeed against a political system that is currently set up to punish innocent human Rights advocates like Nicholas Opiyo for daring to speak truth to the misuse of power.
Dr Chelvan calls upon the Dominic Raab, the Foreign Secretary to actively support and call upon the Ugandan government to immediately release Mr Opiyo: Only when the UK steps-up and make sure our friends in the Commonwealth apply minimum human rights standards can we trust them to work with us for a more prosperous and safe future for all.