Annual Report: Uganda 2010

May 28, 2010

Annual Report: Uganda 2010

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Torture and other ill-treatment

The government failed to ensure that suspected perpetrators of torture and other ill-treatment by the police and other state security services were brought to justice. Victims and survivors were rarely granted access to justice and legal remedies. Up to 71 per cent of the Uganda Human Rights Commission's compensation awards since 2001 remained unpaid by the government. Most complaints submitted to the Commission by victims of human rights violations related to torture and other cruel, inhuman and degrading treatment or punishment.

Violence against women and girls

Reports indicated a continued high prevalence of gender-based violence, particularly domestic violence. Perpetrators were rarely brought to justice and women faced considerable constraints in their attempts to access justice.

In December, parliament passed a Bill specifically outlawing and providing for the punishment of the practice of female genital mutilation and measures for protecting victims. The Bill was awaiting presidential assent to become law at the end of the year. A number of bills were pending, including one that would provide a new legal framework for legal rights within and the dissolution of marriage, and another that would criminalize domestic violence.

Trial of Kizza Besigye

The trial of opposition leader Kizza Besigye and others accused of treason remained pending in the High Court in Kampala. A legal application filed by the accused in the Constitutional Court, challenging the continuation of the trial, had not been determined by the end of the year.

Two cases of murder filed in 2007 in two other courts against people co-accused with Kizza Besigye also remained pending.

September riots - unlawful killings and other violations

Demonstrations and riots took place on 10-13 September in Kampala and elsewhere over the government's decision to stop a delegation from Uganda's Buganda Kingdom from visiting the eastern district of Kayunga to join celebrations of National Youth Day on 12 September. The police said the visit was stopped to prevent possible violence between supporters of the Kabaka, king of the Baganda people, and a local ethnic group in Kayunga - the Banyala, which opposes the Kabaka's authority.

Up to 27 people were reportedly killed during the riots. At least half of them died after being shot by police and security personnel. The government did not conduct an independent and impartial investigation into the killings by security forces, some of which may have been unlawful, in order to bring those responsible for human rights violations to justice.

Hundreds of individuals were arrested in connection with the riots. Dozens were charged with serious offences, including terrorism, and faced the death penalty. They were detained for days and weeks without being charged or brought before a judge - well beyond the limit prescribed by the Constitution. Many of them testified that they had been tortured or otherwise ill-treated in detention.

Freedom of expression

Following the September riots, the Broadcasting Council - a government body mandated to control broadcast content - arbitrarily ordered the closure of four radio stations. This was reportedly over failures before and during the riots to comply with the minimum broadcasting standards provided for under the Electronic Media Act, 2000. The stations were not given adequate notice of the closures or explanations for them, nor were they given an opportunity to appeal. The Council also ordered the discontinuation of some radio programmes during this period. By the end of the year, two of the stations remained closed.

Large sections of the media faced government intimidation and official threats over their reporting during the riots.