Right to health
In March, a report by the UN Special Rapporteur on the right to health noted that important right to health issues, such as sexual and reproductive health rights, were not fully captured in the government’s policies. This neglect was evident in regular reports on cases of maternal mortality. Government health programmes aimed at prevention and treatment of HIV/AIDS left out certain categories of vulnerable people.
Trial of Kizza Besigye
The trial of opposition leader Dr Kizza Besigye and six others accused of treason remained pending in the High Court in Kampala. By the end of the year an application to the Constitutional Court challenging the continuation of the trial had not been decided.
Two cases of murder against Dr Besigye’s six co-accused also remained pending. At the end of 2008 all six were free on bail.
Freedom of expression
Attacks on freedom of expression and press freedom continued.
In April the ruling National Resistance Movement party parliamentary caucus announced its support for a Bill which, if passed, could significantly hamper the right to freedom of expression in Uganda. The Bill had not been debated by the end of the year.
- Two criminal cases in which five journalists working for The Monitor newspaper were charged with criminal libel and sedition in 2007 remained pending in court. The charges related to articles about the secret training of soldiers as policemen and the reinstatement of the Inspector General of Government onto the government payroll after retirement, in breach of public service regulations.
- In April Andrew Mwenda, managing editor of The Independent, a bi-monthly news magazine, and two of the magazine’s staff were arrested and interrogated in connection with a story about claims of torture at alleged secret government-run detention centres. Police raided the magazine’s offices and took away equipment. In May the three men were charged with sedition and “the publication of false news”.
Freedom of assembly and association
In May the Constitutional Court ruled that section 32 of the Police Act amounted to an unjustified limitation on the rights to freedom of assembly and association in the Ugandan Constitution. The section gives unilateral powers to the Inspector General of Police (IGP) to prohibit any assembly or procession where he has reasonable grounds for believing that it was likely to cause a breach of the peace. The court decision did not deal with section 35 of the Police Act which empowers the Minister of Internal Affairs to declare any part of the country a gazetted area in which it is unlawful to demonstrate or convene an assembly of more than 25 people.
The government appealed against this decision to Uganda’s highest court – the Supreme Court. The appeal was pending at the end of the year.
Refugees and asylum-seekers
From early August onwards, refugees and asylum-seekers fled from the DRC following a resurgence and escalation of fighting in eastern DRC. By mid-November more than 13,000 had arrived in Uganda.
According to UNHCR, the UN refugee agency, as of the end of October, Uganda hosted a total of more than 140,000 refugees, most of them from the Great Lakes and East and Horn of Africa regions. More than 48,000 were Congolese.
There was ongoing repatriation of Southern Sudan refugees back to Sudan, a process started in 2005.
A number of urban refugees and asylum-seekers, particularly from Ethiopia, Eritrea and DRC, complained of unlawful and arbitrary arrests, harassment and extortion by the police and other state security agencies.