February 05, 2020

ABA Center for Human Rights TrialWatch Fairness Report gives D-grade to Ugandan academic’s trial

WASHINGTON, Feb. 5, 2020 – The American Bar Association Center for Human Rights monitored the criminal trial of Dr. Stella Nyanzi, an academic and prominent women’s and LGBTQ rights activist in Uganda, as part of the Clooney Foundation for Justice’s TrialWatch initiative and issued a Fairness Report with a grade of “D” for the proceedings.

The prosecution and conviction of Nyanzi for political speech, specifically a poem of graphic nature that she posted on Facebook, constituted a violation of her right to freedom of expression. Additionally, the proceedings were marred by fair trial violations: in particular, the failure to provide the defense with adequate time to call and present witnesses. The report concluded that the trial reflects a troubling trend of suppression of free speech in Uganda, enabled by the sweeping provisions of the country’s Computer Misuse Act. The broad Act has been used by the government to pursue criminal penalties against dissenting voices.

On August 1, 2019, the Buganda Road Magistrate Court convicted Nyanzi of cyber harassment and acquitted her of offensive communication. The following day, she was sentenced to 18 months in prison, reduced by nine months due to her time in pretrial detention. 

A copy of the ABA’s Center for Human Rights TrialWatch Fairness Report can be read here.

A statement from the Clooney Foundation for Justice on the trial can be read here.

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The Clooney Foundation for Justice's TrialWatch initiative monitors criminal prosecutions of vulnerable persons around the world. For more information, go to https://cfj.org/project/trialwatch/.