By Benjamen Emuk
On Friday 8th June 2018, the Uganda Human Rights Commission (UHRC) presented its 20th Annual Report to the Speaker of Ugandan Parliament Rt. Hon Rebecca Alitwala Kadaga at the Speaker’s Chambers in Parliament.
The ceremony which was performed by the Chairperson of the Uganda Human Rights Commission Hon. Meddie S.K Kaggwa was in fulfillment of Article 52 (2) of the 1995 Constitution of the Republic of Uganda requiring the Commission to publish and submit annual reports to Parliament on the state of Human Rights and freedoms in Uganda. Also in attendance were Members of the Commission Dr. Katebalirwe Amooti, Ms. Ruth N Ssekindi Mr. Kamadi Byonanye, Ms. Patricia Nduru, Ms. Margaret Lucy Ejang and the Secretary to the Commission Mr. Patrick Mabiiho Nyakaana.
In accordance with its constitutional mandate to establish a continuing programme of Research, Education and Information, the Commission conducted research on land disputes among others and how they impact on fundamental Human Rights and freedoms in selected regions of Uganda. The research was conducted in Twelve (12) Districts which included; Mubende, Mpigi, Kayunga, Moroto, Napak, Nakapiripirit, Katakwi, Bududa, Kween, Amuru, Buliisa and Masindi.
Speaking at the launch, the Chairperson of UHRC, Med S.K kaggwa said the Commission had successfully produced a braille version of its annual report over the past years.
”This time the UHRC was able to produce the braille version and an audio version with support from the UN Human Rights Office, to enable persons with impairments access information on the state of Human Rights,” he said.
The report was later launched to the public by Hon.Kahinda Otafiire,the Minister of Constitutional Affairs at Golf course Hotel to about 500 guests who included Representatives of Development partners, Civil Society Organizations, Students, representatives from Government Ministries, Departments and Agencies,PWDs, Security Agencies, Members of the media and members of the general public.
While launching the report, Otafiire said that the commission has been at the forefront of promoting the Human Rights based approach to Development as they monitor Government’s compliance with International treaty and convention obligations on human rights,”.
He also congratulated the UHRC on its 20th Anniversary milestone of promoting and protecting Human Rights in Uganda and for having been accredited as an ‘A’status institution by the Global Alliance for National Human Rights institutions (GANHRI). “the ‘A’ status implies that the Commission has adequately complied with the Paris principles and as such attained Global and Regional recognition, as well as confidence and trust at the National level”, Otafiire said.
Also in attendance at the public launch were representatives of foreign missions to Uganda such as the United States of America, Sweden, France and Ireland. Other guests included Dr. Uchenna Emelonye the Head of Office for the United Nations Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights in Uganda, Members of Parliament and members of the Academia.
The 248 paged report gives a detailed assessment of the state of Human Rights and freedoms in the Country during 2017. The report is primarily informed by the complaints received by the Commission, investigations conducted, inspection of detention facilities, Human Rights Education and outreach activities. Furthermore, the report is based on information arising out of monitoring, the state of food security in Uganda, the right to Palliative care, right to fair and speedy hearing in the criminal justice system, increased occurrence insecurity ,land disputes and children’s Rights.
The report makes reference to information provided during interviews, focus groups discussions and UHRC stakeholder’s engagements. On the delivery of Human Rights Education and awareness programmes in 2017, UHRC undertook several activities including workshops, trainings, community outreach programmes, road shows, media campaigns and advocacy aimed at enhancing the levels of Human Rights awareness and nurturing a Human Rights Culture for both duty bearers and Rights holders.
The recently launched report flagged some key emerging and recurrent Human Rights concerns with serious Human Rights implications experienced within 2017. It highlighted Human Rights concerns in babies’ and children’s homes in Uganda; the state of specific Rights of selected vulnerable persons namely: older persons, people living with albinism, persons with physical disability and ex-combatants, the plight of domestic workers, Environmental degradation by selected businesses and the impact of digital technology on personal data safety, Human Rights and responsibilities. Specific Human Rights concerns raised in the report included; discrimination of persons living with disabilities, exploitation, harassment and abuse of domestic and migrant workers, inadequate measures to prevent, mitigate and remedy Human Rights abuses by businesses and the inadequate protection of digital rights. The report also makes recommendations to the various stakeholders.
The report also gave an account of the status of implementation of the various recommendations made to Government by UHRC and the extent of fulfillment of Treaty Body Reporting obligations in its previous annual reports. The report revealed that the UHRC in partnership with the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and the Ministry of Justice and Constitutional Affairs had with support from the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR), Uganda, developed a database and search engine as a monitoring tool for use by the various Government ministries, Departments and Agencies to track their compliance with all Human Rights recommendations from International and Regional Human Rights Mechanisms, as well as the UHRC recommendations. The data base is expected to strengthen the monitoring and reporting mechanisms of Uganda on Human Rights.