Government Tasked to Create Enabling Environment for Human Rights Defenders

2391 Views Entebbe, Uganda

In short
The commonly violated rights of human rights defenders according to research carried out last year include the right to freedom of assembly at 23 percent, opinion and expression which stands at 20 percent. Others include the right to access to funding, an effective remedy, access and communication with international bodies and the right to be protected.

Human rights defenders have appealed to government to put in place an enabling environment for them to operate in.
 
Margaret Ssekaggya, the UN Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights defenders, demands for access to justice, prompt and quick investigations, strong institutions like police and judiciary to work effectively.
 
The commonly violated rights of human rights defenders according to research carried out last year include the right to freedom of assembly at 23 percent, opinion and expression which stands at 20 percent.
 
Others include the right to access to funding, an effective remedy, access and communication with international bodies and the right to be protected.
 
The question of why human rights officials never rush to speak out when police officers are killed or injured stood out too. Ssekajja says this is one of the issues they are trying to handle by coordinating with the police.
 
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Lars Christensen the Head of Programmes Democratic Governance Facility noted that the news laws such as the Anti-Homosexuality Act presents a significant challenge for human rights defenders.
 
He stressed that the Act needs further consideration, pressure from Human Rights commissions and Civil society organisations. This should be done through defending the rights of all women and men in Uganda to get equal opportunities and not be discriminated against because of gender, race, ethnicity or sexual orientation.
 
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At the Human rights Defenders forum, a report was released under the theme, understanding and overcoming potential violations of their rights. The report particularly cites acts such as the Public order management Act 2013 which restricts the rights to freedom of assembly and association that are critical to the work of defenders.
 
It was noted that the law presents an undue burden regarding the process of seeking authorization to peacefully assemble that is bureaucratic and unnecessary.
However, Erasmus Twaruhukwa the commissioner of Police and Director Human Rights and Legal services says the law has just been misunderstood. This is particularly on the provision of notifying the police to know of the activity and provide security.
 
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 The other laws that are seen as inhibitive include the access to information Act 2005 whereby CSO’s who were keen to get information on controversial issues such as corruption was limited. This hampers their ability to hold government accountable on its obligations.
 
The NGO registration Amendment Act 2006 demands that all NGO’s declare their objectives of their organisations as a precondition for registration. Some also complained about the bureaucratic, yet mandatory periodic registration especially for community based organisations at the district level that are subject to the discretionary powers of the Resident District Commissioners.
 
It was also noted that the African Court on human rights is an important avenue for Human rights defenders. But its access is limited to complaints received from the African commission of Human and People’s Rights and State parties to the Protocol of African Inter-governmental organisations.  This means NGO’s can only institute cases directly if the country makes a declaration accepting the jurisdiction of the court which Uganda has not done.