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The Uganda Human Rights Commission in conjunction with other stakeholders annually commemorates the World Press Freedom Day, which is celebrated every 3rd of May of every year. The Commission does so in order to fulfill its constitutional mandate as the National Human Rights Institution, which is mandated to protect and promote human rights for all people in this country as enshrined under Article 52 of the Constitution of the Republic of Uganda.

The UN General Assembly proclaimed the World Press Freedom Day in December 1993, following the recommendation of UNESCO’s General Conference and since then, 3rd May is celebrated worldwide every year as World Press Freedom Day (WPFD).

 

 

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Published: May 3, 2020

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Following its statement that was issued on the 25th of March 2020 on the human rights concerns in dealing with Covid-19, the Uganda Human Rights Commission (UHRC) continues to monitor the observance of human rights, duties and responsibilities in the fight against Covid -19 in line with its mandate under Article 52 of the Constitution of the Republic of Uganda. 

The Commission has been monitoring the human rights situation in the last three weeks of the lockdown and now wishes to appreciate the good work done by the Government of Uganda under the strategic leadership of His Excellency the President, and under various Ministries, Departments and Agencies, with the Ministry of Health at the helm in conjunction with all security agencies, particularly for the well-designed multi-sectoral preventive and response measures to COVID-19 in the country.

 

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Published: April 24, 2020

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By Dr. Patricia Achan Okiria

As the country experiences the 21 days additional lock down arising from the various directives issued H.E the President of the Republic of Uganda, it is important to note that these directives are within the law. The institutions charged with the responsibility to observe and enforce these directives also need to ensure that their actions are within the law. There are a number of legal items to reflect upon as we implement the guidelines.

The Constitution of Uganda as the supreme legal instrument under Objective 23 states that “the State shall institute effective machinery for dealing  with  any  hazard  or  disaster  arising  out  of  natural  calamities  or  any  situation  resulting  in  general displacement of people or disruption of their normal life”. COVID-19 has disrupted the normal life of citizens. 

The Public Health Act (Cap. 281) 

This law empowers the Minister of Health to take measures to combat the spread of an infectious disease. Under this law, a number of statutory instruments have been published to implement the measures given by the Presidential directive to prevent the spread of COVID-19. These instruments include: 

a) Public Health (Notification of COVID-19) Order, 

b) SI No 45/2020; Public Health (Prevention of COVID-19) (Requirements and Conditions of Entry into Uganda) Order, 

c) SI No 46/2020; Public Health (Control of COVID-19) Order, 

d) SI No 52/2020; and Public Health (Prohibition of Entry into Uganda) Order, SI No 53/2020. The Public Health Act therefore provides a robust legal framework for the government to implement the directives against COVID-19 in Uganda.

At the Local Government Level, the Local government authorities have the power to enforce these regulations. 

The Ministry of Health has remained key as front line personnel in the fight against COVID-19. They have played a significant role by providing technical guidance for government authorities, health workers and other key stakeholders against community spread of the pandemic.

The Security forces have also played an important role against the COVID-19 pandemic, GOU has heavily relied on the supportive role of the security forces which has enhanced the Civil- Military Cooperation in Uganda.

The Public Health crisis resulting from the COVID-19 has had immediate head-on effects which will have longer economic implications. Unsurprisingly, during this time of near-universal crisis, the government has enlisted the armed forces to help in combating the pandemic. 

The National Security Council has set up an Inter-Agency Joint Task Force (JTF) at National and Regional levels to support the Ministry of Health (MOH) in Combatting CODIV 19 epidemic in Uganda. The JTF is led by the Uganda Peoples’ Defence Forces’ (UPDF) Deputy Chief of Defence Forces,

The Security forces in Uganda possess a national command network with experience emergency response and disciplined manpower who can be deployed at relatively short notice to help supplement civilian frontline services during national emergency situations. 

The National Security Forces have been deployed to ensure observance of the mandatory quarantine and ensuring compliance to the guidelines. 

There have been some allegations of human rights violation and aggravated torture of several women and some men who were being accused of flouting curfew orders and the ban on public spaces. However, the leadership of both the UPDF and UPF have come out clearly and strongly condemned the outrageous and gross acts of misconduct by the officers, who instead of protecting the constitutional and civil rights of the victims, violated it with the excessive use of force. Such cases have been taken seriously and the concerned officers have been arrested and charged in the court martial.

Civil cooperation

So far there has been a high level of cooperation demonstrated by majority of the people in Uganda in ensuring compliance with the safety measures issued to secure the country from the COVID-19 threat. However, there are some citizens taking risks by failing to stay at home and violated the ban on curfew contrary to the law. Under the Penal Code (CAP 120), a person who does any negligent act, which is and which he or she knows or has reason to believe to be likely to spread the infection of any disease dangerous to life, commits an offence and is liable to imprisonment for seven years.

It is very unfortunate to note the incident where a civilian attacked a UPDF soldier and he lost his eye in an operation to enforce the presidential directive on curfew. It is important that the Citizens to maintain cooperation with security forces and avoid attacking the security forces and defying the directives on COVID-19.

Despite the challenges faced in enforcing the directives on COVID-19 pandemic, we appreciate the health officials and the security officers of integrity who pride themselves on high standards of discipline and professionalism to keep our country and all Ugandans safe and secure. For God and my Country.

 

Dr. Okiria is a commissioner at the Uganda Human Rights Commission

 

Published: April 23, 2020

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Uganda Human Rights Commission (UHRC) acting chairperson Dr. Katebalirwe Amooti Wednesday said such preventive measures are consistent with the provisions of articles 23 and 43 of the country’s Constitution.

UHRC urged security agents to respect human rights in the enforcement of the guidelines on preventive measures in line with article 221 of the Constitution.

Article 23 (1) guarantees the enjoyment of the right to personal liberty but also outlines circumstances under which one can be deprived of personal liberty which includes purposes of preventing the spread of an infectious or contagious disease.

“People should know that human rights can be limited for purposes of public order, public health, security, and morality,” Katebalirwe said.

 

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Published: March 27, 2020

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In view of the COVID-19 pandemic, the Uganda Human Rights Commission (UHRC) has come up with several interventions related to the observance of human rights.

 

These interventions include the following:

 

 

UHRC Central Regional Office is airing spot messages as a campaign against the COVID-19 pandemic with a human rights perspective .The messages are running on Capital FM, CBS(Kampala) ; Sun FM ( Mityana); Buwama FM (Moigi) and Tropical FM ( Mubende).

 

UHRC Commissioner Mr. Meddie Mulumba has been interviewed by NTV where he gave a comprehensive insight into the human rights perspective of the pandemic. WATCH VIDEO HERE

 

UHRC has also issued COVID-19 guidelines to its staff across all its central and regional offices during the lockdown

 

UHRC further issued a press statement on 25th March 2020 on human rights concerns in dealing with the COVID-19 pandemic. READ STATEMENT HERE

 

Radio talk shows on the COVID 19 and the human rights perspective have been held and others are still lined up on the following stations: Radio One, Dembe FM, Bukedde FM, Namirembe FM and Sun FM (Mityana)

 

UHRC on Tuesday, 14 April 2020 participated in a Webinar titled: "Should Uganda declare a State of Emergency in response to COVID-19?". The webinar was hosted by Bernard Oundo with the following panelists: Prof. Fredrick E. Ssempebwa, Founding and Senior Partner, Katende, Ssempebwa Advocates; Dr. Patricia Achan-Okiria, Commissioner Uganda Human Rights Commission; and Mr. Godber Tumushabe, Associate Director, Great Lakes Institute for Strategic Studies.

 

UHRC authored an OPED in New Vision Newspaper by Commissioner Patricia Okiria titled: "Human rights-based effective response to COVID-19 in Uganda" published on 8th April 2020. READ Op-Ed HERE

 

UHRC Fort Portal regional office has developed a COVID-19 message/ poster and shared it on whatsapp groups, radios and on the UHRC online platforms

 

There are currently radio spot messages on Elgon radio in Kapchorwa that are being translated into kupsabiny by the Soroti regional office. The spot messages are in respect of limitations in enjoyment of human rights in respect of public interest with specific reference to public health and in particular COVID-19. The notices call upon the public to carry out their responsibilities by abiding by the Government directives in restrictions and other procedures. Urge them to respect rights of people suspected to be infected with COVID-19 and not to discriminate against them or subject them to mob action.  The messages further call upon the law enforcement officers to respect human rights in performance of their duties.

 

Discussions have been held with Etop Radio to conduct an on line radio talk show in respect of limitation of rights and responsibilities of citizen in respect of COVID-19 pandemic.

 

Complaints Management

The Commission received complaints during the lock down period through its toll free lines, social media platforms and emails. The complaints so far received relate to the following issues:

 

1. Complaints against the extension of the quarantine period for those who had been under institutional quarantine by Government

2. Complaints of alleged brutality by law enforcement and security officials whilst enforcing the Presidential directives of lock down and curfew

3. Complaints of alleged lack of access to food during the lock down period

4. Complaints of alleged lack of access to medical care during the lock down period

5. Complaints of violence in homes and heightened family wrangles during the lock down period.

6. Complaints of employees who were stuck at their work places in remote areas as a result of the Presidential directives and could not go back to their homes.

Some of the complaints were referred to the National Task Force on COVID-19 for appropriate management

In addition, the Commission has been making interventions with regard to arrests and detentions around the country, and has on various cases intervened to ensure that suspects on petty offenses are released on police bond in a timely manner, to avoid over crowding in cells.

 

CLICK HERE to contact UHRC for inquiries, comments or complaints

 

 

TOLL FREE UHRC REGIONAL CONTACTS

 

UHRC HEAD OFFICE 0800100766

 

UHRC JINJA REGIONAL OFFICE 0800144201

 

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