Annual Report: Uganda 2003

May 28, 2003

Annual Report: Uganda 2003

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At least 24 death sentences were passed. At the end of the year, 354 convicted prisoners were on death row. No civilians were executed. Two soldiers were executed after a military trial which fell short of international standards of fair trial. Senior military officers reportedly stated that the army could use executions as a disciplinary measure.

b On 22 March Michael Declan O'Toole, parish priest of Panyangara in Jie county, his driver and his cook were allegedly killed by two soldiers on their way from Moroto to Kotido. On 25 March the soldiers were executed by firing squad after an Emergency Field Court Martial, which reportedly lasted just 2 hours and 36 minutes, and did not allow for a full investigation of the circumstances surrounding the killing.

Freedom of expression

Legislative restrictions on the media increased. The new "anti-terrorist" legislation provided for severe penalties, including imprisonment for up to 10 years, for journalists accused of encouraging "terrorism". Journalists risked being labelled as "terrorists" if they criticized government policies towards armed opposition groups classified as "terrorist" under the new legislation.

A bill under scrutiny in Parliament would impose undue restrictions on non-governmental organizations, infringing the right to freedom of association.

Journalists continued to be subjected to excessive use of force by the police.

b In February a military police officer beat a New Vision photojournalist during an eviction in Kampala.

b The Monitor was raided by police and closed for seven days in October after publishing an article alleging that an army helicopter was shot down in the north where the army was fighting LRA rebels. Frank Nyakairu, the author, was detained and accused of publishing a false report "likely to cause fear and alarm to the public".

Harassment of the opposition

A new law restricting the activities of political parties and organizations was passed in May. In June opposition members, led by the Democratic Party, filed a petition challenging the law as unconstitutional. The new law imposed restrictions on political parties which were not equally applied to the ruling party.

b A Uganda People's Congress (UPC) rally was due to be held in Constitutional Square in Kampala on 12 January. Police arrested James Rwanyarare, the UPC leader, before the rally and a crowd confronted police outside UPC headquarters. Police fired live ammunition and killed a trainee journalist, Jimmy Ojotre Higenyi. The police officers involved were arrested and subsequently released on police bail. A police inquiry was ordered, but no information about its outcome emerged. Jimmy Ojotre Higenyi's family began legal proceedings against the state.

Persecution of sexual minorities

Discrimination against lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) Ugandans continued, and legislation discriminating against gays and lesbians remained in place. In March President Museveni said in a speech to the Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting in Australia that the relative success of the fight against AIDS in Uganda was because the country has no homosexuals. On 30 August the Minister of Ethics and Integrity ordered police to arrest and prosecute homosexuals. Security agents continued harassing members of the LGBT community throughout 2002, and several were arrested because of their sexual orientation.

b In December, the police arrested, then released on police bond, a prominent member of an association of gay men and lesbians who went to a police station to inquire about two members of the association arrested allegedly because of their sexual orientation.

Armed political groups

The Suppression of Terrorism Act classified several rebel movements as "terrorist" and stipulated severe punishments for "terrorists", their supporters and sponsors, including the death penalty. Throughout 2002 former rebels who had been pardoned under the Amnesty Act were rearrested under the Suppression of Terrorism Act.

Lord's Resistance Army