This page summarizes cases raised with Uganda by the Special Rapporteur between May 1, 2011, (when the Special Rapporteur took up his functions) and February 28, 2017 (the date of the last public release of communications). Communications are released to the public once per year. This page also contains observations on these communications and on responses received from Uganda.
Communications and observations are divided into sections based upon which observation report they originally appeared.
Each communication is referenced as urgent appeal (UA), allegation letter (AL), joint urgent appeal (JUA) and joint allegation letter (JAL) – the hyperlinks lead to these documents. This is followed by the date the communication was issued, as well as the case number and the State reply (also hyperlinked if available).
Summaries and communications are published only in the language of submission (in the case of Uganda, English).
The Special Rapporteur regrets that no reply has been received by the Government of Uganda to the communication sent during the reporting period. He considers responses to his communications as an important part of the cooperation of Governments with his mandate, and urges the authorities to provide as soon as possible detailed responses to all the concerns raised in his communications.
The Special Rapporteur is concerned about different draft laws which may negatively impact on the enjoyment of freedom of association and of peaceful assembly. He urges the authorities to ensure the rights to freedom of association and of peaceful assembly is enjoyed by all, without any kind of discrimination.
The Special Rapporteur is particularly concerned about several provisions of the Public Order Management Bill which do not comply with international norms and standards pertaining to freedom of association and of peaceful assembly. He urges the authorities to ensure any new legislation on these issues are in compliance with the best practices detailed in his reports (see notably A/HRC/20/27). He stands ready to provide any technical assistance the Government may require in this regard.
In relation to reported acts of harassment and intimidation against human rights defenders, the Special Rapporteur refers to Human Rights Council resolution 21/16, and in particular operative paragraph 1 which “reminds States of their obligation to respect and fully protect the rights of all individuals to assemble peacefully and associate freely, online as well as offline, including in the context of elections, and including persons espousing minority or dissenting views or beliefs, human rights defenders, trade unionists and others, including migrants, seeking to exercise or to promote these rights”.
The Special Rapporteur reminds the Government of Uganda of his country visit request sent in September 2011, to which a response is yet to be received. He believes such a country visit may provide with a significant opportunity to discuss the technical assistance the Government may require.
The Special Rapporteur thanks the Government of Uganda for acknowledging receipt of the communication sent on 4 February 2014, but he regrets to not have received a substantive response to date to neither of his two communications. He considers responses to his communications as an important part of the cooperation of Governments with his mandate, and urges the authorities to provide as soon as possible detailed responses to all the concerns raised in his communications.
The Special Rapporteur deeply regrets the signing of the Anti-Homosexuality Act, 2013 (the Act) in February 2014. He is concerned that it compromises the free exercise of the rights to freedom of association and peaceful assembly, by preventing organizations working on issues related to the rights of lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and Intersex (LGBTI) people from carrying out their legitimate work and peaceful activities. He fears that by criminalizing the “promotion” of homosexuality, the Act directly targets and threatens the work of LGBTI organizations.
The Special Rapporteur reminds the Government that the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, acceded by Uganda on 21 June 1995, guarantees the right to freedom of association (article 22), stipulates that “each State Party undertakes to respect and to ensure to all individuals within its territory and subject to its jurisdiction the rights recognized in the Covenant, without distinction of any kind, such as race colour, sex, language, religion, political or other opinion, national or social origin, property, birth or other status”(article 2), and guarantees to all individuals equal and effective protection against discrimination on grounds identified in article 2 (article 26).
Furthermore, the Special reiterates the content of the operative paragraph 2 of the Human Rights Council Resolution 24/5 that “[r]eminds States of their obligation to respect and fully protect the rights of all individuals to assemble peacefully and associate freely, online as well as offline, including in the context of elections, and including persons espousing minority or dissenting views or beliefs, human rights defenders, trade unionists and others, including migrants, seeking to exercise or to promote these rights, and to take all necessary measures to ensure that any restrictions on the free exercise of the rights to freedom of peaceful assembly and of association are in accordance with their obligations under international human rights law.”
The Special Rapporteur reminds the Government of Uganda of his country visit requests sent in September 2011 and October 2013. He regrets to not have received a response to date. In this connection, OP6 of resolution 15/21 states that the “Human Rights Council… [c]alls upon States to cooperate fully with and assist the Special Rapporteur in the performance of his or her tasks… and to consider favourably his or her requests for visits”.
Responses to communications
The Special Rapporteur regrets that no substantial response has been received to date relating to the allegations contained in his communications. He considers responses to the questions raised in his communications as an important part of the cooperation of Governments with his mandate, in accordance with Human Rights Council resolutions 24/5 (2013), 21/16 (2012) and 15/21 (2010).
The Special Rapporteur welcomes the release of Mr. Justus Orishaba Bagamuhunda on 19 August 2015, but expressed serious concerns that his arrest and arbitrary administrative detention may have been related to his work as a human rights defender focused on the promotion of human rights, democracy and good governance (UGA 2/2015). He calls on the authorities to take all appropriate measures to ensure that human rights activists can exercise their rights to freedom of association and peaceful assembly in a safe and enabling environment without risk being exposed to threats, retaliation, intimidation or harassment. He reminds the Government of its obligation to respect and protect fundamental human rights, including the right of all individuals to freely associate.
Non-Governmental Organisations Bill, 2015 (NGO Bill)
As indicated in the communication sent on 27 April 2005 (UGA 1/2015), the Special Rapporteur remains seriously concerned about certain provisions of the Non-Governmental Organisations Bill, 2015 (NGO Bill) that would severely restrict the right to freedom of association as enshrined in international human rights law and standards. Similarly, he remains concerned by the vague wording of some of the provisions and cautions the authorities against ambiguous legal provisions governing the rights to freedom of peaceful assembly and of association that increase the risk of abuses and violations of these rights and infuse fear of breaking the law among society activists, which in turn can lead to self-censorship. He is further concerned at that the wide discretion given to the Minister for Internal Affairs and the National Board for NGOs at the National, District and Sub-County levels are problematic and could have the effect of discouraging the formation and work of associations.
The Special Rapporteur reminds the State of its obligation to ensure a conducive environment for the free exercise of the rights of peaceful assembly and association, rights enshrined in the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, acceded by the State on 21 June 1995. It also restates that, according to this same Covenant, only a very limited number of restrictions to these rights may apply, which should be prescribed by law and necessary in a democratic society for responding to a pressing social need for the interference.
The Special Rapporteur reminds the Government of Uganda of his country visit requests sent in 2011 and 2013, to which a response is yet to be received. He believes such a country visit may be an opportunity to discuss any technical assistance that the Government may require.
Responses to communications
The Special Rapporteur regrets not having received a response to his communications. He considers responses to his communications to be an important part of the cooperation of Governments with his mandate, in line with Human Rights Council resolutions 24/5 (2013), 21/16 (2012) and 15/21 (2010).
Environment in which these rights are exercised
The Special Rapporteur is highly concerned about the situation of human rights defenders in Uganda. He regrets that despite his repeated calls to end the violation of human rights of activists, their situation remains critical. Severe violations of the rights to freedom of association, assembly, and expression continued during and after Uganda’s February 2016 elections. He remains worried about the ongoing judicial harassment against Mr. Bulongo, which appears to be in reprisal for his cooperation with the United Nations, its representatives and mechanisms in the field of human rights (UGA 2/2016). He wishes to highlight Human Rights Council resolution 24/24 which calls on States to ensure adequate protection from intimidation or reprisals for cooperation with the United Nations, its mechanisms and representatives in the field of human rights and Human Rights Council resolution 22/6, which provides for the right to “unhindered access to and communication with international bodies, in particular the United Nations, its representatives and mechanisms in the field of human rights, including the Human Rights Council, its Special Procedures, the Universal Periodic Review and the treaty bodies, as well as regional human rights mechanisms”.
He is similarly worried about Mr. Kizze Besigye, member of the opposition party Forum for Democratic Change (FDC) and candidate in the presidential election, and Mr. Solomon Akugizibwe, a human rights defender working for the Association for Human Rights Organizations (AHURIO) (UGA 3/2016). Both individuals were arrested, detained and charged; Mr. Akugizibwe was monitoring demonstrations when he was charged with “disobeying lawful orders”, , and Mr. Besigye was arrested for unlawfully declaring himself the winner of the February 2016 presidential election, and for having hosted his own swearing in ceremony in Kampala.
Edward Mwebaza, Ms. Patience Akumu, Ms. Elizabeth Kemingisha, Ms. Joaninne Nanyange and Mr. Adrian Jjuuko, members of the Human Rights Awareness and Promotion Forum (HRAPF) have all been allegedly intimidated and harassed for their activities as human rights defenders.
The Special Rapporteur reiterates his outrage at the excessive use of force, arbitrary arrests, detentions, cruel, inhuman and degrading treatment, including threats and intimidation against members of the LGBTI community and human rights defenders working for the protection of the rights of LGBTI people (UGA 6/2016).
All of these measures seem indicative of a worrying trend of cracking down on human rights defenders for exercising their legitimate rights to freedom of peaceful assembly, association and expression, having a chilling effect on Ugandan civil society as a whole.
He recalls Uganda’s international obligations regarding articles 19, 21 and 22 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR), ratified by Uganda on 21 June 1995, which respectively guarantee the right to freedom of opinion and expression, the right to freedom of peaceful assembly and association.
The Special Rapporteur urges Uganda to take steps to ensure that human rights defenders and civil society are able to operate free from any form of intimidation and harassment at all times, including by ensuring full protection of the rights of freedom of peaceful assembly, association, and expression.
The Special Rapporteur calls on States to pay particular attention to the plight of groups at risk, including LGBTI individuals. He stresses that the African Commission has adopted a resolution condemning violence and other human rights violations against persons on the basis of their real or imputed sexual orientation or gender identity, including attacks by State actors, physical assaults, torture, arbitrary arrests and detention, particularly those targeting human rights defenders and civil society organizations working on issues of sexual orientation or gender identity in Africa (resolution 275 of the African Commission). In this regard, he asked asks that positive measures, including affirmative action initiatives, be taken to ensure that all individuals belonging to groups most at risk have the ability to effectively exercise their rights, including the rights to freedom of peaceful assembly and of association.
Finally, he urges the Government to take every possible measure to ensure an end to impunity for these violations, and hopes to promptly receive a response to his communications providing details of any investigation carried out in relation to these cases.
The Special Rapporteur reminds the Government of his willingness to undertake a country visit to Uganda, as indicated by his letters sent on 23 September 2011 and 29 October 2013. He trusts that such a visit would allow him to examine first-hand issues relating to his mandate, identify good practices and formulate pertinent recommendations to relevant stakeholders. He looks forward to receiving a positive reply at the earliest possible opportunity. He reiterates that Human Rights Council resolution 15/21, which established his mandate, and 24/5, which renewed it for an additional period of three years, both urge the States to consider favorably his requests for visits.
For the full reports, containing communications, replies and observations for all countries, see the following links: