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Uganda: Museveni’s Regime Accused of Violating Human Rights, US Report

Introducing the Uganda Report on its Facebook page, the United States Embassy in Uganda, on 14 April 2016 one day after the official release of the Report, reproduced the following words by US President Barack Obama, when castigated the so-called ‘Strongmen of Africa.’

Police beat up Ugandans especially opposition supporters and leaders.

“The strongmen of today will never extinguish the hope that persists around the world. Dissenters may be jailed, but ideas can never be imprisoned.
Controlling access to information will not turn lies into truths, nor will it deter the longing for justice that stirs in every human soul. And refusing to recognize the basic dignity of every man, woman, and child regardless of gender, background, race, ethnicity, sexual orientation, or belief will only lend further momentum to the quest for equality that for generations has stirred hearts and spurred action.”
President Barack Obama.

HIGHLIGHTS FROM THE UGANDA REPORT FOR THE YEAR 2015:

In the Executive Summary:

“…The three most serious human rights problems in the country included: lack of respect for the integrity of the person (unlawful killings, torture, and other abuse of suspects and detainees); restrictions on civil liberties (freedoms of assembly, expression, the media, and association); and violence and discrimination against marginalized groups, such as women (sexual and gender-based violence), children (sexual abuse and ritual killing), persons with disabilities, and the lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and intersex (LGBTI) community.

Other human rights problems included harsh prison conditions, arbitrary and politically motivated arrest and detention, lengthy pretrial detention, restrictions on the right to a fair trial, official corruption, societal or mob violence, trafficking in persons, and child labor.”

Ugandan police fire teargas and water cannons to disperse opposition supporters who had gathered in a Kampala.

MAIN CONCLUSIONS IN SECTIONS OF THE UGANDA REPORT:

Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman, or Degrading Treatment or Punishment:
“The constitution and law prohibit such practices.

The 2012 Antitorture Bill stipulates any person convicted of an act of torture may be subject to 15 years’ imprisonment, a fine of 7.2 million shillings ($1,970), or both. The penalty for conviction of aggravated torture is life imprisonment.

Supporters of opposition leader Kizza Besigye ride motorbikes in front of riot police in Kampala, Uganda.

There were credible reports security forces tortured and beat suspects. The Uganda Human Rights Commission (UHRC) and international and local human rights organizations reported incidents of torture by security forces, including rape, severe beating, and kicking.”

Prison and Detention Center Conditions:

“Prison conditions remained poor and, in some cases, life threatening. Serious problems included long periods of pretrial custody, overcrowding, inadequate food, and understaffing. Local human rights groups, including the Foundation for Human Rights Initiatives (FHRI), received reports security forces and prison wardens tortured inmates, particularly in government prisons, military facilities, and unregistered detention centers.

Reports of forced labor continued (see section 7.b.). Most prisons across the country were not designed to accommodate persons with disabilities.
Physical Conditions:

Gross overcrowding remained a problem. On September 30, Uganda Prisons Service (UPS) spokesperson Frank Baine said a system with a maximum inmate capacity of 19,000 incarcerated more than 45,000 persons.”

Arbitrary Arrest or Detention:

“Although the constitution and law prohibit such practices, security forces often arbitrarily arrested and detained persons, including opposition leaders, politicians, activists, demonstrators, and journalists.

…Impunity was a problem. Trials of security forces officers accused of using excessive force were frequently delayed due to weaknesses in investigative mechanisms, and some cases were not investigated or brought to trial.

…Arbitrary arrests during police sweeps remained a problem, as were arbitrary arrests allegedly based on preventive action, suspicion of treason, disobeying lawful orders, and incitement of violence charges.”

Freedom of Speech and Press:

“The constitution and law provide for freedom of speech and press, but the government restricted these rights.”

Freedom of Speech and Expression:

“Security forces and government officials occasionally interrogated and detained radio presenters and political leaders who made public statements critical of the government and used slander laws and national security as grounds to restrict freedom of speech.”

Press and Media Freedoms:

“The Uganda Police Force’s Media Crimes Unit closely monitored all radio, television, and print media, and security forces subjected numerous journalists to harassment, intimidation, and arrest. There were private rural radio stations, but government officials and ruling party members owned many of them and imposed reporting restrictions.”

Violence and Harassment:

“Security forces assaulted, harassed, and intimidated journalists.
Police arbitrarily arrested and detained journalists.

Censorship or Content Restrictions:

“To avoid government intimidation or harassment, many print and broadcast journalists practiced self-censorship, particularly when reporting on the president or his family, senior members of the ruling NRM party, security forces, or the exploration and use of oil resources.

Many rural radio stations claimed unnamed government officials ordered them to deny broadcast time to opposition politicians, and police questioned several radio hosts for having opposition members on their shows.

Media activists reported authorities censored footage, especially of protests or demonstrations.

The African Center for Media Excellence stated that self-censorship by editors and journalists was rampant, largely due to fear that negative stories about the government and large corporations could adversely affect their advertising revenue.”
Libel/Slander Laws:

“Authorities used libel and slander laws to suppress criticism of government officials. The Human Rights Network for Journalists reported that eight journalists faced defamation cases as of November.”

Freedom of Peaceful Assembly and Association.

“While the constitution provides for freedoms of assembly and association, the government did not respect these rights.

The 2013 Public Order Management Act places a significant bureaucratic burden on those wishing to organize or host gatherings and grants the UPF authority to prevent gatherings.

Opposition and civil society activists reported the UPF routinely denied permission on technicalities. In many instances the UPF gave no official response to requests to hold public meetings, instructed applicants not to assemble, or dispersed meetings after permission was granted.

Police kept FDC’s Opposition leader Col Besigye under house arrest for 42 days.

Police used their legal powers of “preventive arrest”–which allow police to remove and detain persons to prevent them from committing an offense–to harass opposition leaders.

Police preventively arrested several opposition leaders during attempts to hold meetings and processions and later released them.

On several occasions police confined Besigye and other opposition leaders to their residences to prevent them from participating in events.

Police often used excessive force to disperse protests and public rallies or arrest opposition activists.

Police often used excessive force to disperse protests and public rallies or arrest opposition activists.

Police regularly arrested persons, most often opposition youth, for unlawful assembly.”

Freedom of Association:

“While the constitution and law provide for freedom of association, the government did not always respect this right.”

Political Parties and Political Participation:

“The ruling NRM party operated without restriction, regularly holding rallies and conducting political activities.

Authorities often restricted the activities of the main opposition parties by refusing them permission to hold public demonstrations and preventing opposition leaders from being interviewed on local radio stations.

Police used tear gas to disperse rallies of opposition leaders and arrested youth activists belonging to opposition groups”

Corruption and Lack of Transparency in Government:

“The 2009 Anticorruption Act provides criminal penalties for official corruption, including up to 12 years’ imprisonment upon conviction. The government did not implement the law effectively, and officials frequently engaged in corrupt practices with impunity.

Government agencies responsible for combating corruption included the Inspectorate of Government, the DPP, the Anticorruption Division (ACD) of the High Court, Parliament’s Public Accounts Committee, the police Criminal Investigation Division, the Office of the Auditor General, and the Directorate for Ethics and Integrity.

These agencies lacked the political will to combat corruption at the highest levels of government, and many corruption cases remained pending for years.
In March the auditor general released the annual report for the fiscal year ending June 2014.

The report revealed government departments increasingly lacked financial discipline, leading to loss of funds or failure to account for funds.”

By Robert Muriisa.

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