Authorities are called upon to uphold their human rights obligations

Following a promotion mission of the African Commission on Human and Peoples’ Rights (ACHPR) held in Uganda from 25th to 30th August 2013, FIDH and FHRI call upon the authorities to uphold their regional and international human rights obligations.

The African Commission on Human and Peoples’ Rights (ACHPR), the main regional mechanism that is mandated to promote and protect human rights on the continent, carried out a promotion mission to Uganda from 25th to 30th August 2013 to share views with relevant stakeholders on the major human rights challenges prevailing in this country. This mission was held at a time when lack of political will, discrimination, repressive laws, impunity or manipulation of customs and practices continue to infringe the enjoyment of fundamental rights and freedoms in Uganda.

Despite the adoption, over the past few years, of legislations aimed at enhancing human rights protection in Uganda, their lack of effective implementation seriously jeopardizes the realization of the rights they are intended to guarantee. Notwithstanding the Prohibition and Prevention of Torture Act, 2012, which criminalises torture and provides for measures of compensation, rehabilitation or restitution for victims, alleged perpetrators of acts of torture are still enjoying impunity and when they are convicted, victims are barely compensated. Similarly, the Domestic Violence Act, 2009, which prohibits all forms of domestic violence and provides for a wide range of remedies to victims, continues to suffer lack of full implementation.

“In a context where impunity has been the predominant rule in our country, it is of the utmost importance that the laws aimed at providing justice to victims of human rights violations are fully implemented. The credibility and coherence of the Ugandan authorities are at stake. Time has come to show real political will”, declared Sheila Muwanga Nabachwa, FIDH Vice President and FHRI A.g Executive Director (Programs).

A number of other Laws and Bills seriously contravene Uganda’s obligations with regard to non-discrimination and fundamental rights and freedoms. The Succession Act, Cap.162 which violates women’s rights to inheritance is yet to be reformed, seven years after having been declared unconstitutional by the Constitutional Court. Another example lies in the Anti-homosexuality Bill, 2009 which seeks to discriminate citizens on the basis of their sexual orientation by criminalising homosexuality. Fundamental freedoms of expression, assembly and demonstration are also at risk. The current Press and Journalist (Amendment) Bill, 2010 which strengthens the licensing and registration process for newspapers and introduces new offences, put serious threats on journalists’ ability to exercise their duties free from interference. Concerns are also arising over the content of the Public Order and Management Bill, 2011 which, in its current form, seeks to control instead of regulate public assemblies.

“When it comes to the protection of human rights in Uganda, we deplore a persisting dichotomy between political commitments and there actual translation into practice. Uganda has no choice but to uphold its obligations with regard to fundamental rights and freedoms, non-discrimination and justice” declared Livingstone Sewanyana, FHRI Executive Director.

FIDH and FHRI are also deeply concerned by the persistence of the death penalty in the Ugandan legislation and by the continuing condemnations to death. Our organisations call upon the Ugandan authorities to take all necessary measures aimed at instituting a moratorium on the death penalty as a first step towards abolition, in accordance with similar recommendations issued by the ACHPR.

“This promotion mission of the African Commission has created a momentum to focus on the impediments to the realisation of human rights in Uganda. The authorities must now seize this opportunity to make stronger steps towards the respect of their regional obligations. In parallel, we expect from the ACHPR that it takes full advantage of its mission by issuing strong recommendations and following-up on their implementation” declared Mabassa Fall, FIDH Representative to the African Union.