The Uganda Human Rights Commission (UHRC) has so far received 15 complaints of Human Rights violation stemming from the on-going election campaign. This was revealed by the Director of Complaints, Investigation and Legal Services (CILS) Ms. Ida Nakiganda during the issuance of a joint Press Statement to flag-off the International Human Rights Day (IHRD) 2020 commemoration activities.
“We have received 15 complaints, 13 of which directly relate to the violation of the right to life stemming from the recent riots (that broke out after the arrest of Presidential Candidate Robert Kyagulanyi Sentamu aka Bobi Wine),” she revealed, while reacting to questions from Journalists who attended this Press Conference yesterday (December 9, 2020) at the UHRC Headquarters on Twed Plaza – Lumumba Avenue.
She expounded that relatives of the 13 deceased persons have approached the Commission for redress. She said the other two cases of the 15 received relates to being detained incommunicado. The Joint-press statement was read out by the Acting Chairperson UHRC Dr. Amooti Katebalirwe Wa Irumba on behalf of the partners in the commemoration; Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR), Germany Corporation, GIZ, the French Embassy in Uganda, African Center for Treatment and Rehabilitation of Torture Victims (ACTV), AIESEC Uganda, EOC, Penal Reform International, Uganda Law Society and Human Rights Center Uganda (HRCU).
In the joint the UHRC and its partners noted that this year’s commemoration is being done under the theme: “BUILDING BACK BETTER: Putting Human Rights at the Centre of the COVID-19 Recovery,” to re-affirm their commitment to the respect, protection and promotion of human rights for all.
“The major objective for commemorating and marking the day the Universal Declaration of Human Rights was adopted is for the Commission and its partners, who are the key human rights defenders in Uganda, to raise our voices through synergies of advocacy to call for respect and observance of human rights and freedoms by duty bearers who are largely comprised of Government and fulfillment of duties and responsibilities by rights holders who are the citizens,” the joint statement the Acting Chairperson read out notes. See statement in full
The statement was also interpreted in Luganda by the Chief Executive Officer (CEO) ACTV Mr. Samuel Herbert Nsubuga who noted that the protection and promotion of Human Rights is not a one day event but a continuous process.
A Journalist Jackson Kasule from BBS Telefayina inquired from the Commission about complaints from National Unity Platform (NUP) who are alleging that their people are being wantonly arrested or tortured. He also inquired whether from the Commission’s opinion the elections will be free and fair deducing from the ongoing process. Dr. Katebalirwe responded that Commission is mandated to monitor the entire process from the time the Electoral Commission issues the Roadmap, through the campaigns, the voting day and even after the poling.
“We have been monitoring the elections through our Regional and Field Offices and very soon we will be training our staff in observance of voting on Election Day. It is after the entire process that we can give our opinion and we normally issue a detailed report on the election,” he said.
About the alleged wanton arrest and torture of NUP supporters, the chairperson first implored the Journalists to be objective in their assessment of the election because there might also other party supporters facing arrests but the media seems to be only interested in NUP. He then comforted the reporter that the Commission will investigate all Human Rights violations that come to its attention and urged him to encourage those affected to report any Human Rights violations to the Commission and other agencies from which they can get redress.
Another Journalist Dennis Kato from Channel 44 TV inquired about the youth who are seemingly being targeted during electoral violence and what the Commission is doing. He also wondered why the Commission has not done enough Civic Education to help reduce Human Rights violations.
The chairperson explained that the Youth are key stakeholders for the Commission and they shouldn’t be targeted. He noted however that there are incidents where some of the youth have conducted themselves in a very irresponsible manner but they should be encouraged to act responsibly because the enjoyment of Human Rights goes with duties and responsibilities. He said he does not agree that the Commission has not done much to educate people (Civic Education).
“We have done a lot of awareness through our 10 Regional Offices and 12 Field Offices across the Country. I myself, have been to NBS TV, NTV and radio stations like K-FM and Radio One doing Civic Education through Talk Shows. We have some challenges like noting having a fully functional transport unit as all our vehicles are ramshackle which limits our movement but in spite of that, we continue to do our best,” he said.
The Journalists also wanted to know what the UHRC is doing about the Police and other security agencies “who are perpetuating violence in the ongoing political campaigns.” The Acting chair revealed that the Commission has a deliberate policy against the police and all security agencies.
“We avoid confrontation approach; naming and shaming is not our approach. We engage them through dialogue. We normally invite leaders of those security agencies and engage them seriously,” he said.
The main commemoration event for the IHRD 2020 is a Public Dialogue which is going to be held at Méstil hotel under the Theme: “Promoting Human Rights and Accountability in the context of General Elections and COVID-19.” The President Uganda Law Society Ms. Phoena Wall Nabasa is expected to move a key-note address and other partners like the French Embassy in Uganda, GIZ, and OHCHR are expected to make remarks.
The commemoration is the 72nd since the UN General Assembly adopted the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (UDHR) in 1948.