Annual Report: Uganda 2006

Report
May 28, 2006

Annual Report: Uganda 2006

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REPUBLIC OF UGANDA
Head of state and government: Yoweri Kaguta Museveni
Death penalty: retentionist
International Criminal Court: ratified
UN Women’s Convention: ratified
Optional Protocol to UN Women’s Convention: not signed

Overview - Covering events from January - December 2005

The independence of the judiciary, freedom of expression and press freedom came under attack. Violence against women and girls was widespread. Torture by state security agents persisted.

Background

On 28 June Parliament voted to amend the Constitution and lifted the limit of two terms that a president could serve. Demonstrators protesting against this vote clashed with riot police. A national referendum on 28 July brought a return to a multi-party system of politics.

Abuses against civilians by all parties to the conflict in northern Uganda continued. In October the International Criminal Court (ICC) issued arrest warrants for five senior leaders of the armed opposition group, the Lord’s Resistance Army (LRA). The accused were Joseph Kony, leader of the LRA; Vincent Otti, the second in command; Okot Odhiambo, Dominic Ongwen and Raska Lukwiya. They were charged with crimes against humanity and war crimes committed in Uganda since July 2002.

Independence of the judiciary

Retired army colonel Dr Kizza Besigye, presidential candidate of the opposition party Forum for Democratic Change (FDC) in the 2006 elections, was arrested on 14 November. He was charged with rape and, together with 22 other people, treason and concealment of treason.

On 16 November, the High Court granted bail to 14 of the co-accused facing charges of treason. However, heavily armed state security agents were deployed in the courtyard of the High Court, reportedly ready to re-arrest the 14 once they emerged. Consequently, they were not released on bail but returned to prison. The
14 appeared before a military court on 18 November, charged with terrorism. Lawyers across Uganda staged a one-day strike on 28 November in protest at this siege of the High Court.

Thousands of people demonstrated in Kampala city centre against the arrest of Dr Besigye. Riot police used live ammunition, tear gas and water cannons against demonstrators. During the two-day protests, at least one person was killed and dozens were arrested. The Internal Affairs Minister banned demonstrations and processions ahead of Dr Besigye’s bail application and court case.

On 24 November, Dr Besigye was charged before the military court with terrorism and unlawful possession of firearms. On the same day, he was scheduled to appear before the High Court for his bail application. Two lawyers representing Dr Besigye before the military court were charged with contempt of court and held for seven hours as they attempted to explain that their client was due to appear before the High Court. They were convicted and fined.

Dr Besigye was granted bail by the High Court on 25 November, but that morning, he had been remanded back to Luzira Maximum Security Prison by the military court and therefore he did not regain his freedom. The High Court ordered the military to suspend its trial until the Constitutional Court ruled on its legality, but the military court said the trial would go ahead. On 19 December Dr Besigye appeared before the High Court – his trial before the military court was scheduled for the same day. Dr Besigye’s treason and rape cases were adjourned to January 2006 and he remained in prison until the end of the year.

Attacks on freedom of expression

Freedom of expression and press freedom came under attack and continued to be threatened. Journalists faced criminal charges because of their work.