Uganda: Carry Out Rights Commission Recommendations
|Publisher||Human Rights Watch|
|Publication Date||29 May 2009|
|Cite as||Human Rights Watch, Uganda: Carry Out Rights Commission Recommendations, 29 May 2009, available at: http://www.refworld.org/docid/4a1f84a01e.html [accessed 26 December 2014]|
(Kampala) - President Yoweri Museveni of Uganda should ensure that the recommendations of the Uganda Human Rights Commission are carried out and that independent commissioners are appointed promptly to the new Equal Opportunities Commission, the Human Rights Network-Uganda, the Foundation for Human Rights Initiative and Human Rights Watch said in a letter to Museveni today.
"The Ugandan government often states its commitment to human rights, but actions speak louder than words," said Georgette Gagnon, Africa director at Human Rights Watch. "The government should be robustly supporting the work of the Uganda Human Rights Commission and acting quickly on its recommendations each year."
Uganda's constitution mandates the establishment of the Uganda Human Rights Commission (UHRC) as the main independent government agency to monitor human rights abuses and recommend change. But the government has not consistently adopted its recommendations, and parliament only held its first discussion of UHRC recommendations made over the last decade in May 2009. In addition, members of a new body mandated by a 2005 constitutional amendment, the Equal Opportunities Commission (EOC), have yet to be appointed.
Recommendations by the UHRC that have not been implemented include: criminalizing torture; granting commission staff unannounced and unfettered access to all areas of detention, including military barracks, as required by law; promptly awarding compensation to victims of human rights abuses as determined by the commission; and completing the establishment of district human rights committees.
For six months - between November 2008 and May 2009 - the UHRC was impaired because Museveni did not appoint commissioners, when the previous commissioners' term expired, as required under the constitution. The lapse obstructed critical operations of the commission's work, including adjudication of compensation determinations for victims of human rights abuses and public presentation of information and investigations. Forty-one cases of human rights violations that were fully investigated and ready for hearing were not adjudicated because of a lack of commissioners.
On May 18, Museveni appointed new commissioners. But over 1 billion shillings [US$454,000] awarded by the commission in human rights cases since 2003 remains unpaid.
"The UHRC plays a crucial role in the promotion and protection of constitutional rights in Uganda," said Livingstone Sewanyana, executive director of the Foundation for Human Rights Initiative (FHRI) in Uganda. "But government must demonstrate a commitment to human rights by implementing the many UHRC recommendations that have gone unheeded for years."
The 2005 constitutional amendment that created the new Equal Opportunities Commission mandated the government to establish it within a year. The new commission is to handle discrimination and to ensure that affirmative action for marginalized groups is promoted and observed. Despite passage of the 2007 Equal Opportunities Act, establishing its operations and a budgetary allocation, no commissioners have been appointed so the commission is not yet operating.
The needs of the most vulnerable and marginalized groups - women, children, people affected or living with HIV/AIDS, ethnic minorities, and the elderly, among others - are seriously harmed by the absence of EOC commissioners, the groups said in their letter.
"The lack of EOC commissioners negatively affects access to basic services and enjoyment of basic rights by marginalized groups who cannot find redress in the existing systems," said Mohammed Ndifuna, national coordinator of the Human Rights Network-Uganda (HURINET). "Ensuring nondiscrimination through affirmative action is an important right for Ugandans, since it determines access to basics of life by the marginalized."