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Danish envoy decries continued rights violations

By Andrew Ssenyonga

Added 19th December 2017 10:43 AM

Pedersen noted that Uganda has a comprehensive legal framework that should prevent torture, but implementation needs to be improved

Danish envoy decries continued rights violations

Pedersen noted that Uganda has a comprehensive legal framework that should prevent torture, but implementation needs to be improved

Med Kaggwa interacting with Pedersen Mogens during the stakeholders' dialogue at Imperial Royale Hotel in Kampala on December 15. Photo by Nancy Nanyonga

The Danish Ambassador to Uganda, Mogens Pedersen, has decried the existence of serious human rights abuses in Uganda.

Referring to the 2016 annual report of Uganda Human Rights Commission (UHRC), Pederson said they took note of the persistent cases of torture in detention centres by the Police and other security agencies.

"Prisons in Uganda hold a number of detainees that have not been brought before a judge, as prescribed by the law. This is illegal and must be stopped."

"Individuals from all walks of life suffer, according to the report, from beatings, rape, pulling out fingernails, electric shocks, mock executions among others," he said.

Pedersen, who was speaking at the stakeholders' breakfast dialogue in commemoration of the international human rights day in Kampala recently, noted that Uganda has a comprehensive legal framework that should prevent torture, but implementation needs to be improved.

"We strongly encourage the authorities to ensure that acts of violence are condemned through enforcement of the law. Perpetrators must be prosecuted," he said.

The envoy added that recently, the EU head of missions were in Karamoja region and had opportunity to interact with the local leaders, CSOs and also visited mining communities.

"We were informed about instances of land rights violations by some mining companies. Vulnerable communities were evicted from their land without just compensation of the affected people," he said.

Pedersen called upon the Government to adopt a broad-based consultative approach that promotes economic development while at the same time safeguarding the livelihood of the vulnerable population.

"In this regard, we once again invite government of Uganda to sign up to the Extractive Industries Transparency Initiative (EITI), as a structured way to promote transparency and accountability in the sector.

Pedersen also noted that EU was greatly concerned about the latest political developments in the country, that have depicted shrinking political space and increasing tension in many parts of the country, due to the proposed constitutional amendments.

"There is increasing constitutional reforms in a non-comprehensive and non-consultative manner and it has resulted into violent clashes between Police and public leading to human rights violations and use of excessive force by the Police," he said.

Med Kaggwa, the chairperson, UHRC also criticised the continued detention of persons who are exercising their freedom of expression, movement, assembly and association.

"This is worsened by severe restrictions on the right to access information such as the disruption of local media from broadcasting public events that are important to the citizens," he added.

Kaggwa appreciated the appeals made to the Police to exercise neutrality and restraint in the handling of public demonstrations.

"We, therefore, urge the Police to remain non-partisan while dealing with all politicians and respect the right to peaceful assembly as provided for in the constitution of Uganda," he said.

In his statement, the Constitutional affairs minister Kahinda Otafire delivered by state minister for finance Gabriel Ajedra, said the Government has adopted and maintained a human rights approach at the centre of its development programmes.

"The government has endeavored to fulfill its obligations in regard to the promotion and protection of human rights," he said.

Government spokesperson Ofwono Opondo conceded that the Government has for some time now been violating rights of people.

"We acknowledge that some of our security agencies including individual police officers have been torturing people which was not a case when government had just captured power," he said.

Ofwono warned the security officers that they will face the law if they don't improve on their conduct.

The 2016 report revealed that the UHRC received a total of 4,227 complaints, marking an 8.27% increase from the 3,904 complaints registered in 2014. 

In 2015, the UHRC registered nine election-related complaints and the highest number of complaints registered included the violation of freedom from torture and cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment (37.95%), followed by detention beyond 48 hours (27.17%), denial of child maintenance (14.3%), deprivation of property (7.04%) and deprivation of life (3.96%).

The Uganda Police Force remained on top of the list of  violators of human rights in 2015, with 385 (50.65%) complainants out of the total of 760; followed by private individuals with 182 (23.94%) and the Uganda People Defence Forces with 97(12.76%).

UHRC conducted mediations for 163 complaints, which was an increase of 34.71% from 121 mediated in 2014, while the UHRC Tribunal concluded 85 complaints in 2015, posting a 58.7% reduction from the 206 complaints in 2014.

The performance of the tribunal was affected by the absence of Commissioners to preside over the hearings given the ten-month period taken to re-appoint them on expiry of their term of office in April 2015.

 

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