Annual Report: Uganda 2011

Report
May 28, 2011

Annual Report: Uganda 2011

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Head of state and government: Yoweri Kaguta Museveni
Death penalty: retentionist
Population: 33.8 million
Life expectancy: 54.1 years
Under-5 mortality (m/f): 129/116 per 1,000
Adult literacy: 74.6 per cent

Law enforcement officials committed human rights violations, including unlawful killings and torture, and perpetrators were not held to account. There were concerns about electoral violence and human rights abuses ahead of general elections in early 2011. A number of new and proposed laws threatened the rights to freedom of expression and freedom of assembly. Gender-based violence was widespread and was committed with impunity. Lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) people continued to face discrimination and violence.

Background

In October, eight presidential candidates, including President Museveni, were cleared by the Electoral Commission to run for the presidency in general elections scheduled for February 2011. Fears of electoral violence were raised by lingering perceptions that the electoral body was not impartial and concerns over the transparency of the voter registration process.

A major corruption case in which a former health minister, two deputies and a government official faced criminal charges of embezzlement and abuse of office continued. The charges relate to the management of the Global Fund against HIV/AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria.

In a September letter to the UN, Uganda rejected the findings of the UN mapping exercise documenting the most serious violations of human rights and international humanitarian law committed within the Democratic Republic of the Congo between March 1993 and June 2003 by different armed forces and groups including the Ugandan army - the Uganda People's Defence Forces. The government took no action to institute investigations into the allegations of human rights violations and crimes committed by the army.

Election-related abuses

Throughout the year, numerous instances of electoral violence and human rights abuses were recorded. These were not investigated and suspected perpetrators were not brought to justice.

  • In January, the police arrested 35 female activists from the Inter-Party Cooperation Coalition - an alliance of opposition parties - who were protesting against the Electoral Commission, accusing it of partiality. The activists complained of ill-treatment by the police - including being forced to undress and being held overnight with men in the same police holding cells - and the use of excessive force. They were subsequently charged with holding an unlawful assembly.
  • In June, the police and a group of men armed with sticks and locally known as "the Kiboko squad" disrupted a rally in Kampala by opposition leader Kizza Besigye and beat him, as well as officials and supporters of his party. The government promised an investigation but no announcement was made of any progress by the end of the year.

Key opposition leaders had public rallies and media events, particularly radio talk shows, cancelled or blocked by the police and government representatives. An opposition leader, Olara Otunnu, faced criminal charges of sectarianism for discussing alleged government complicity in human rights abuses during the war in northern Uganda.

The government proposed a Public Order Management Bill which would, if enacted into law, unduly restrict the rights to peaceful assembly and to freedom of expression. The Bill had not been submitted for debate in Parliament by the end of the year.

Unlawful killings, torture and other ill-treatment

Dozens of people in the north-eastern Karamoja region were reported to have been killed during the year in disputed circumstances by government soldiers engaged in security and disarmament operations. Army personnel were also accused of committing torture and other ill-treatment in the course of these operations. The government did not institute credible investigations into alleged human rights violations and no one was brought to justice.

In October, the Uganda Human Rights Commission reported that torture and ill-treatment by the police, other law-enforcement officials and the military remained widespread.