Press Statement on the Promotion Mission of the African Commission on Human and Peoples’ Rights in the Republic of Uganda

    Following authorisation by the Government of the Republic of Uganda, a delegation of the African Commission on Human and Peoples’ (“the Commission”) undertook a Promotion Mission in the Republic of Uganda from 26 to 30 August 2013, in line with its mandate under Article 45 of the African Charter on Human and Peoples’ Rights (“the African Charter”).  

    This Promotion Mission which is a follow up of the second country Mission conducted by the Commission in the country from 24 July to 31 July 2006, is premised on the general situation in the country and thematic issues related to: the rights of people living with HIV/AIDs (PLHIV) and those at risk, vulnerable to and Affected by HIV; freedom of expression and access to information; prisons and conditions of detentions; and extractive industries, environment and human rights; in Uganda.

    The delegation of the Commission comprised:

    ·         Honourable Commissioner Lucy Asuagbor, Commissioner responsible for monitoring human rights in Uganda, and Chairperson, Committee for the Protection of the Rights of PLHIV and Those At Risk, Vulnerable To And Affected By HIV In Africa;

    ·         Honourable Commissioner Pansy Tlakula, Special Rapporteur on Freedom of Expression and Access to Information in Africa;

    ·         Honourable Commissioner Med S.K Kaggwa, Special Rapporteur on Prisons and Conditions of Detention in Africa;

    ·         Honourable Commissioner Pacifique Manirakiza, Chairperson of the Working Group on Extractive Industries, Environment and Human Rights Violations; and

    ·         Mrs. Abiola Idowu-Ojo and Ms. Irene Desiree Mbengue Eleke, Legal Officers at the Secretariat of the Commission in Banjul, The Gambia, assisting the Commissioners.

    During the Mission, the delegation met with various stakeholders at the high level in Government, CSOs, as well as other actors who are involved in the protection and promotion of human rights in Uganda.

    The Mission started with a courtesy call to the Office of the Prime Minister of Uganda, who was represented by the Director of Information and National Guidance, Mr. Mayende Simon, with whom the delegation had useful discussions about the efforts being made by the Ugandan Government in fulfilment of its human rights obligations, including amongst others: the passage of  an anti-torture law; the ongoing consultations and other measures towards the abolition of the death penalty; measures to establish an inter-Ministerial Committee to follow up on the ratification and domestication of regional and international human rights treaties; and the adoption of affirmative action in respect of marginalized groups.

    The delegation also paid a courtesy call to the office of the Minister of Foreign Affairs of Uganda, who was represented by the Minister of State for Foreign Affairs/Regional Cooperation, Honourable Asuman Kiyingi. The Honourable Minister welcomed the delegation and noted the purpose of its mission, expressing his commitment to support the same. He noted the need for the Government of Uganda to ratify outstanding international and regional human rights instruments, following which he elucidated the process of ratification under Ugandan law. He also informed the delegation that the process for the preparation of the outstanding periodic report of the State under Article 62 of the African Charter is currently underway. The delegation requested the Government of Uganda to consider hosting a Session of the Commission.

    The delegation held discussions with:

    ·         Honourable, Speaker of Parliament, Rt. Honourable Rebecca Alitwala Kadaga;

    ·         The Principal Judge, His Lordship, Justice Yorokamu Bamwine;

    ·         The Minister of State for Energy and Mineral Development, Honourable Lokeris Peter;

    ·         The Minister of Gender, Labour and Social Development, Honourable Mary Karooro Okurut;

    ·         The Minister of State for Internal Affairs, Ambassador James Baba;

    ·         The Minister of Justice and Constitutional Affairs, Honourable Kahinda Otafiire – Maj. Gen (Rtd.);

    ·         The Minister of State for Information, Communications and Technology, Honourable Nyombi Thembo;

    ·         The Minister of State for Health, Honourable Dr. Elioda Tumwesigye;

    ·         The Chairperson of the Electoral Commission of Uganda, Eng. Dr. Badru M. Kiggundu;

    ·         The Deputy-Commissioner General of  Uganda Prisons, Mr. James Mwanje;

    ·         The Chairperson of Uganda Law Society, Ms. Ruth Sebatindira;

    ·         The country representative of the United Nations High Commission for Refugees;

    ·         The Uganda AIDS Commission;

    ·         The Uganda Human Rights Commission;

    ·         The Uganda Media Centre; and         

    ·         CSOs working in Uganda.

    The delegation also visited the Ugandan Government Maximum Security Upper Prison, Luzira and the Luzira Women’s Prisons.

    After the various visits and exchanges, the delegation notes with satisfaction the laudable efforts that have been made by the Government of Uganda and other stakeholders towards the realisation of the rights guaranteed by the African Charter to Ugandan citizens.

    Specifically, the delegation:

    • Commends the adoption of a number of laws, including: the Prohibition of Female Genital Mutilation Act 2010; the Domestic Violence Act 2010 and its regulations; the Access to Information Regulations 2011; the Prohibition and Prevention Against Torture Act 2012, which is in compliance with the Commission’s recommendation following the promotion mission to Uganda by the Chairperson of the Commission’s Committee on the Prevention of Torture in Africa, in 2009; the Petroleum (Exploration, Development and Production) Act, 2013; the Petroleum (Refining, Gas Processing and Conversion, Transportation And Storage) Act, 2013; the Building Control Act of 2013; the Anti-Money-Laundering Act of 2013; the Oil and Gas Revenue Management Policy 2012; as well as The Constitution (Sentencing Guidelines) for Courts of Judicature (Practice) Directions, 2013; and to this end, urges the Government to ensure the full and effective implementation of these legal instruments;
    • Notes with satisfaction the programmes, activities and strategies put in place for the realisation of human rights, such as the establishment of the Human Rights Committee in the Parliament; and the use of affirmative action which has resulted in significant achievements in promoting gender equality and equal opportunities for persons with disabilities;
    • Appreciates the continuous efforts of the Government to develop various legislation aimed at improving the governance framework in the country, through a number of bills pending in Parliament, and requests the expeditious passing of the bills;
    • Notes with appreciation, the framework established by the Government for the protection and assistance of Refugees, Asylum Seekers, Migrants and Internally Displaced Persons, in Uganda, including providing equal access to public services available to Ugandan citizens; and
    • Acknowledges the strategies and measures put in place by the Government, in the fight against HIV/AIDs pandemic in the country.

    The delegation however remains concerned about certain challenges which inhibit the full realisation and enjoyment of human rights by the citizens, and in this regard wishes to highlight the following:

    • Regarding prisons and places of detention as well as the administration of justice, while commending the progress recorded including the use of community service and plea-bargaining to decongest the prisons, the delegation notes with concern the overcrowding of the Ugandan Government Maximum Security Upper Prison, Luzira, and calls on the Government of Uganda to adequately capacitate the judiciary in order to improve access to the courts, so as to clear the backlog of trials of inmates;

    Furthermore, the delegation urges the Government to address the issues of: the detention of juveniles in adults’ facilities; inmates remanded on Minister’s Order including the mentally ill; and remands prejudiced by the suspension of the Anti-Corruption Court.

    • With respect to the rights of PLHIV and those at risk, vulnerable to and Affected by HIV, the delegation is concerned about continuous allegations of discrimination and stigmatization against PLHIV in the work place, and in this regard urges the Government to strengthen its legal protection framework for PLHIV to discourage HIV-related human rights violations;

    The delegation also urges the Government to expand access to Anti-Retrovirals to all key populations.

    • With respect to freedom of expression, the delegation notes the continued existence of laws that criminalise expression such as sedition which remains in the statute books despite the Constitutional Court’s ruling declaring such laws unconstitutional, and urges the Government to expedite the repeal of these  laws, in order to give effect to the decision of the Constitutional Court;

    Additionally, the delegation urges the Government to improve the situation of freedom of expression, particularly media freedom, in the country;

    Furthermore, regarding access to information, while reiterating the Commission’s commendation of the passing of the Access to Information Act of 2005, the delegation urges the Government to expedite the full and effective implementation of the same.

    • As regards extractive industries, environment and human rights, the delegation takes notes of concerns relating to loss of land and property rights in the oil-producing areas and calls on the Government to ensure that the affected persons are promptly, adequately and effectively compensated;
    • In relation to freedom of association and assembly, the delegation urges the Government to safeguard these rights in line with its international and regional human rights obligations;
    • With respect to torture, the delegation expresses concern about the existence of a backlog in the payment of compensations awarded to victims of torture, and urges the Government to consider the establishment of a victims’ compensation fund as recommended by the Ugandan Human Rights Commission;
    • On the question of the death penalty, the delegation appreciates the fact that no death sentence has been carried out since 1999 and that since the decision of the Constitutional Court in Susan Kigula & 416 Others -v- Attorney General, several sentences have been commuted to prison terms. However it is concerned that death penalty still remains in the statute books of Uganda, and encourages the Government to formalize the moratorium on the death penalty, as a step towards abolishing the death penalty.

     

    The delegation also encourages the Government to enhance the environment within which CSOs operate, and to improve consultations with them in the compilation of the Periodic Reports under Article 62 of the African Charter. Furthermore, the delegation recommends that the Government considers adopting laws for the protection of human rights defenders, in line with the United Nations Declaration on Human Rights Defenders.

     

    The delegation reiterates the recommendations of the Commission to Uganda:

    • To ratify the African Charter on Democracy, Elections and Good Governance;
    • To ratify the Optional Protocol to the Convention Against Torture; and
    • To make the Declaration provided for in Article 34 (6) of the Protocol on the African Charter on Human and Peoples’ Rights on the establishment of an African Court of Human Rights, which allows direct access to the African Court on Human and Peoples’ Rights.

    Finally, the Government is called upon to ratify the following instruments:

    • The Second Optional Protocol to the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights on the Abolition of the Death Penalty; and
    • Optional Protocol to the Convention on the Elimination of All forms of Discrimination against Women.

    The delegation wishes to thank the Government of the Republic of Uganda and its people for their very warm reception, hospitality, and openness during this Mission. The delegation is truly grateful to the Government for the facilities and services placed at its disposal during the Mission, and singles out for special gratitude, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, for the excellent arrangements put in place which enabled the delegation to meet a cross-section of the Uganda society in order to have a fairly representative view of the human rights situation in the country.

    The delegation will prepare a Report of the Mission which will be presented to the Commission for consideration during its 55th Ordinary Session, and onward transmission to the Government of Uganda. Without in any way pre-empting the content of the Report, the delegation wishes to note that Uganda is making good progress in the direction of realising for its people, the rights enshrined in the African Charter.

     

                                     Done in Kampala, Uganda, this 30th Day of August 2013.

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      Date: 05 September 2013

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