Dr. Stella Nyanzi, a Professor at Makerere University in Uganda, was arrested and charged under the Computer Misuse Act of 2011 for insulting the President on Facebook. Dr. Nyanzi was advocating that schools supply sanitary pads to girls so that they may attend school during their menstrual cycle. Many girls were not showing up in school to avoid embarrassment. The President was not a supporter of this issue. As a result Dr. Nyanzi was quite “colorfully” critical of the President and his wife on Facebook. Dr. Nyanzi, however, does have the right to express herself non-violently. She has been charged with “cyber-harassment” and violating the President’s “right to privacy.” Under Uganda’s constitution and international human rights agreements, to which Uganda is a signatory, Dr. Nyanzi’s rights are protected. CCS wrote to the Minister of Justice to request her immediate and unconditional release. A hearing is set to address her bail for May 10.
May 5, 2017
Minister of Justice and Constitutional Affairs
Major General (rtd) Kahinda Otafiire
Bauman House, Plot 5, Parliament Avenue
P.O. Box 7183
The Committee of Concerned Scientists is an independent organization of scientists, physicians, engineers and scholars devoted to the protection and advancement of human rights and scientific freedom for colleagues all over the world.
We write to express our grave concern for Dr.Stella Nyanzi, a social science researcher and anthropologist at Makerere University, who was arrested and detained on April 7 and charged under the Computer Misuse Act of 2011 with insulting President Yoweri Museveni on social media.
In her vigorous campaign to ensure that school girls in Uganda have access to sanitary pads – a vital and commendable public health goal – Dr. Nyzanzi was critical of President Museveni and his wife, exercising her right to freedom of expression, which includes social media such as Facebook Dr. Nyanzi remains jailed, with a hearing on her bail application scheduled for May 10. Charges of “cyber harassment” and violating President Museveni’s “right to privacy” have been lodged against her simply because she peacefully – even if somewhat profanely – spoke out. Suggestions by state attorneys that Dr. Nyanzi has an “unsound mind”, coupled with calls for a psychiatric examination, appear to be another avenue for delegitimizing her views and undermining her right to freely express her opinions.
In order to comply with Uganda’s constitution and international human rights law, Dr. Nyanzi’s right to free expression must be protected. Her arrest and detention, the charges against her, as well as the threats of a psychiatric examination, are fundamentally unjust.
We urge you to see that these charges are dropped and that Dr. Stella Nyanzi is released immediately and unconditionally.
Thank you for your attention to this matter, and we look forward to receiving your response.
Joel L. Lebowitz, Paul H. Plotz, Walter Reich, Eugene M. Chudnovsky, Alexander Greer
Co-Chairs, Committee of Concerned Scientists
H.E. Ambassador Oliver Wonekha
Embassy of the Republic of Uganda
5911 16th St. NW
Washington DC 20011
Phone: 1 202 726 7100
Fax: 1 202 726 1727
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Update: Nigerian academic granted bail.