Annual Report: Uganda 2005

May 28, 2005

Annual Report: Uganda 2005

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  • In June, six journalists were detained by order of the Chairperson of the Military General Court Martial. They were convicted of contempt of court on the same day. Together with a defence lawyer, they were accused of publishing stories about the trial of a former Army Chief of Staff, which the military court had ordered should be held behind closed doors. The accused were fined and cautioned.

In February, in a landmark judgement, the Supreme Court ruled the offence of “publication of false news” as void and unconstitutional, reaffirming that freedom of expression is a fundamental human right. The Supreme Court ruled that the language in the Penal Code providing for the offence was too imprecise.

Freedom of association and assembly

On several occasions, police impeded the constitutionally guaranteed right to freedom of association by dispersing peaceful demonstrations, gatherings and rallies by opposition parties and groupings.

The Constitutional Court judgement of 17 November nullifying certain sections of the PPOA 2002 removed constraints on political parties’ right to hold public rallies in any part of the country. The Court also nullified Section 13(b), which barred a Ugandan citizen who had lived outside the country for more than three years from leading a political party or from being a political office-bearer.

Persecution of sexual minorities

The climate of hostility against lesbians, gays, bisexuals and transgender (LGBT) people persisted and discriminatory legislation against sexual minorities remained in force. Security agents continued to harass members of the LGBT community, causing gay rights activists at one of the main universities to fear for their personal safety.

  • In October, a radio station was compelled to pay a fine for hosting a live talk show with sexual rights activists. The Broadcasting Council imposed a fine on FM Radio Simba, claiming that the programme was “contrary to public morality” and breached existing laws.

Death penalty

Death sentences continued to be imposed. There were at least 525 inmates on death row by December 2004. No civilians have been executed since May 1999, when 28 death row inmates were hanged at Luzira Prison. Three soldiers were executed by firing squad in March 2003. Top prison officers repeatedly called for executions to be carried out by privately employed hangmen, not Prison Department employees, if the government were to maintain the death penalty.

Despite calls for its abolition, the Constitutional Review Commission recommended that the death penalty be retained and should remain mandatory for the crimes of murder, aggravated robbery, kidnapping with intent to murder, and rape of minors below the age of 15. The government responded in September by accepting the recommendations and noting that treason was not listed among the crimes carrying a mandatory death sentence.