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THE HUMAN RIGHTS CENTRE UGANDA

Defending Human Rights Defenders


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PRESS RELEASE

HUMAN RIGHTS DEFENDERS ANNUAL FORUM 2015

Human Rights Defenders (HRDs) are individuals, groups or organisations who work to promote and protect human rights in a peaceful manner. They play an important role in promoting and protecting the rights and fundamental freedoms that citizens are entitled to. HRDs in Uganda have faced challenges in their work ranging from arrests, threats, attacks from state and no state actors, inadequate funding, office break ins, and restrictive legislation amongst others. It is therefore important for HRDs to meet and address prospects and challenges faced in their work.

 

The Human Rights Centre Uganda (HRCU) in partnership with the Democratic Governance Facility (DGF) and Lifeline are pleased to organise the 3rd HRDs’ Annual Forum which will take place at Imperial Golf View Hotel, Entebbe from 10th to 12th March, 2015 under the theme Human Rights Defenders and State Partnership for Human Realisation‘. The forum will provide a platform to HRDs to brainstorm on the environment in which they operate and forge sustainable solutions to their challenges.

 

The forum will focus on strengthening communication between all HRDs regardless of their professions and regions of operation in Uganda by giving them an opportunity to connect and interact with one another, and with State organs. More importantly, it will help to establish a larger support system for HRDs all over Uganda. Among the HRDs to attend the forum are government agencies, journalists and civil society organisations from both rural and urban areas working on governance, children, land and women’s rights among others.

 

Gen. Aronda Nyakairima, the Minister of Internal Affairs speaking on behalf of the Prime Minister pledged his support to HRDs. He said:

As Government, we shall do our best to ensure an enabling environment for all Human Rights Defenders. We will and are putting in place enabling institutions and laws to anchor and consolidate this environment so that we maintain peace and stability and meet the development goals of 2020 and 2040.”

Mr. Richard Ssewakiryanga the executive director of NGO Forum presenting on the current state of affairs on the partnership with the State and HRDs encouraged every Ugandan to know that they are human rights defenders and urged the State and CSOs to work on the weaknesses in their partnership.

 

Presenting on the role of human rights defenders in social economic transformation in Uganda, Mr. Kisamba Mugerwa from the National Planning Authority mentioned that there is a need to sensitize the public in order for their development to be rooted in human rights needs and dignity. He noted that human rights protection cannot be achieved without people’s participation and urged HRDs to fight poverty and address issues of development

 

HRCU will launch its 4th annual report on the situation of human rights defenders in the year 2014 on Wednesday 11th March, 2015. The report analyses the working environment of HRDs, highlighting their commonly violated rights, challenges, successes, best practices and recommendations to different stakeholders, that is Government, development partners, civil society organisations and HRDs on improving the promotion and protection of rights of HRDs in Uganda.

 

The report explores the legal frameworks relevant to the rights and duties of HRDs highlighting a number of key international and regional human rights instruments that Uganda has ratified. It also mentions the most violated rights of HRDs according to key informants as the right to freedom of assembly and the right to freedom of opinion and expression.

Among the recommendations listed for concrete action to address the issue raised in the report include:

a.    Government is called upon to respect international human rights standards to which it subscribes and respect the rights of HRDs and their contribution towards the achievement of human rights.

b.    Enact a specific law that protects and recognizes the work and role of HRDs

c.    HRDs should adopt evidence based documentation which is paramount in providing allegations of human rights violations when remedies are sought.

The Human Rights Centre Uganda is a non-profit organization established in November 2008 with the sole aim of contributing to the protecting and promotion of the rights of human rights defenders in Uganda. The Centre specifically addresses issues and challenges affecting human rights defenders.

Margaret Sekaggya (Ms.)

Executive Director, Human Rights Centre Uganda.

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Parliament is the legislative, elected body of government tasked with passing laws of Uganda that provide for good governance and playing the oversight role of the other arms of government. Parliament is thus the representation of the people. Parliament is principally charged with 2 roles in promoting constitutionalism. These have been enshrined in the 1995 Constitution of the Republic of Uganda; protecting the Constitution and holding the Executive accountable. Protecting the Constitution In order to appreciate this duty imposed on Parliament, Uganda’s history with regard to the constitutions had and the making of the 1995 Constitution should be noted. Benjamin J. Odoki, in his essay, “The Challenges of Constitution-making and Implementation in Uganda” he noted that the making of a new constitution in Uganda demonstrated the desire of the people to fundamentally change their system of governance into a truly democratic one. Further that the process was thus a major step towards the democratization of the country which had experienced nearly thirty years of oppression, tyranny and exploitation. The history of Uganda’s constitutionalism road is that up until 1995, Uganda had had 3 constitutions namely: 1962, 1966 and 1967 Constitutions. It should be noted that in making of these constitutions, massive consultations of the citizens was not done by the responsible authorities. They had simply been enacted, and handed down to be implemented. It could thus be argued that the views of the people had not been reflected in the Constitutions. Thus, in 1988, the Uganda Constitution Commission was established and it spearheaded the task of making the Constitution that was promulgated in 1995 by the Constituent assembly. The making of the Constitution was distinctly characterized by popular participation by the people which was achieved through wide consultation and national public debate. The Constitution under Article 79 lays down the functions of Parliament which are to make laws and protect the constitution and promote democratic governance of Uganda. The duty of protecting the constitution would among others include preserving the spirit of the constitution that way it is not amended or altered veering off the purpose of the people. Since 1995, the constitution has been amended a number of times; including September and December 2005. The amendments have among others been for the creation of new districts, new offices, creation of special courts to handle offences relating to corruption, remove the limits on the tenure of office of the President. The role of parliament in protecting the constitution must be to vote either for or against an amendment of the constitution whilst being mindful of the Uganda’s history. Parliament should also be mindful of the fact that the constitution that was promulgated in 1995 was one that reflected the views of the people who had lived through the oppression and tyranny that characterizes our past as a nation. Parliament is further urged to not only look at the present and past but also the future. Ideally, the test should be that if an amendment years down the road can easily lead to oppression or tyranny stands to be exploited to the detriment of Uganda and her citizens, that amendment should not be allowed. As earlier noted, Constitutionalism is about ensuring that governance is done in accordance with the law and not the whim of the government of the day. Similarly, the constitution should not be easily and frequently amended to suit the needs of the government of the day. And this is what in principle the duty of protecting the constitution is all about. Holding the Executive accountable As noted earlier, each arm of government has certain controls over the other 2 arms. For Parliament, it principally has the duty of holding the Executive or the state accountable for all decisions that it makes as well as its actions. This is provided for under the national objective I which makes it clear that the President has to report to Parliament and the nation all steps taken to ensure the realization of the national objectives and directive principles of state policy. The goal of holding the Executive accountable is such that there is difficulty in the State abusing the power that it is given by law. Parliament, in fulfilling this duty has held weekly plenary sessions in which the Prime Minister is tasked to explain state actions of lack thereof on issues, and through the parliamentary committee sessions, has held the state accountable. The expectation for the 10th Parliament is that it does not take the trend of the 9th Parliament, which during its first year was seen to be assertive and its actions promoting constitutionalism and over the course of time became less active with the fire unfortunately dying out. Members of Parliament should at all times be mindful of Parliament’s role in promoting constitutionalism and in all decisions have them at the forefront as they are the key in protecting Uganda from ever experiencing the past that we have worked so hard to distance ourselves from.

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  • By: kjose
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  • By: Fapidi
    fapidi: Hi,am Tumwebaze Alfred of Foundation on Advocacy for People's Intergrity and Disadvantaged Individuals {Fapidi} in need of your guidance,seminar sponsoring and training , situated in Ibanda north.my mail is tumwebazesalfred@gmail.com.

  • By: hrcug
    The Anna Lindh lecture 2014: Ms Margaret Sekaggya guest speaker at the Anna Lindh lecture 2014 organized by @lunduniversity and @RWallenbergInst http://bit.ly/1w8qgsO

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