Annual Report: Uganda 2004

May 28, 2004

Annual Report: Uganda 2004

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Head of state and government: Yoweri Kaguta Museveni
Death penalty: retentionist
UN Women's Convention: ratified
Optional Protocol to UN Women's Convention: not signed

Rulings by the Constitutional Court allowed political organizations to participate more freely in public life.

Reports of torture increased against a background of government campaigns against crime and "terrorism". The 17-year conflict between the government and the Lord's Resistance Army (LRA) intensified, resulting in a sharp rise in the number of internally displaced persons to over 1,200,000.

There were many cases of violence against women.

Freedom of speech was subject to additional restrictions. Death sentences continued to be passed and at least three soldiers were executed.

On 21 March the Constitutional Court declared Sections 18, 19 and 21 of the Political Parties and Organizations Act (2002) null and void as they contravened the Constitution. This allowed political organizations to participate more freely in public life, although political parties remained banned from such participation until they registered with the Registrar General.

In June Uganda signed a bilateral agreement with the USA providing impunity for US nationals accused by the International Criminal Court (ICC) of genocide, crimes against humanity and war crimes. US President George W. Bush visited Uganda in July.

The Sudanese government extended the military protocol allowing Uganda to carry out military operations in southern Sudan against the LRA. Senior Ugandan army officers and others were cited as responsible for pillaging resources from the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) in a report by a UN panel of experts and in the report of Uganda's official Inquiry Commission headed by Judge David Porter.

In early May the Uganda People's Defence Forces (UPDF) began withdrawing troops from eastern DRC following pressure by the international community.

On 7 November the International Court of Justice postponed the hearing in a case against Uganda concerning armed activities involving violations of international humanitarian law and massive human rights violations in the DRC.

Violence against women
Violence against women prevailed in male-female relations in Uganda. Few cases of sexual violence in the home, including rape in marriage and rape of minors, were prosecuted. Children, including orphans, were frequently subjected to sexual assault and violence by relatives within the extended family system, as well as by schoolteachers, people helping in the home and other carers. According to police statistics circulated in May, 4,686 children were raped in 2002; there was no indication that this figure was decreasing.

• Alice, aged 12, was brought from her native village to Kampala by a maternal aunt who promised to send her to school. She was left alone with the aunt's husband, who allegedly raped her three times in one night, threatening to kill her if she talked. The girl reportedly told her aunt about the rape, but the aunt accused her of seducing the husband and beat her in the area of her genitals. The rape was reported to the police but the case was later dropped.

The absence of a law criminalizing domestic violence limited legal recourse for abuse in the home. Between January and September, 2,518 cases of family-related violence (excluding murder and rape) were reported to the Childcare and Family Protection Unit of the Uganda Police Force. However, many cases went unreported and campaigners argued that the lack of a specific law hampered efforts to fight domestic violence.

In December a Domestic Relations Bill was presented to parliament for debate. It addressed issues such as the criminalization of marital rape, property in marriage, polygamous marriages, bride price, widow inheritance and minimum age for marriage and cohabitation.

Women and girls living and travelling in areas affected by insurgencies led by the LRA in northern Uganda were raped and suffered other forms of violence, including abduction and sexual slavery.