Annual Report: Uganda 2011

May 28, 2011

Annual Report: Uganda 2011

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A number of suspects detained in connection with the July bomb attacks in Kampala (see below) reported that they were tortured and ill-treated by police.

Violence against women and girls

In October, following consideration of Uganda's state report, the UN Committee on the Elimination of Discrimination against Women expressed concern that violence against women and girls remained widespread. The Committee noted the inordinately high prevalence of sexual offences against women and girls. Female victims of rape and other forms of sexual and gender-based violence continued to face economic and social obstacles to justice, including the costs of criminal investigations and discrimination by government officials.

In April, the President gave assent to the Domestic Violence Act, a law specifically criminalizing domestic violence. However, domestic violence remained rampant and perpetrators were rarely brought to justice.

In July, Uganda ratified the Protocol to the African Charter on the Rights of Women in Africa.

Trial of Kizza Besigye

In October, the Constitutional Court declared that charges of treason and murder against Kizza Besigye and others were unconstitutional, mainly on the grounds that the state had failed to uphold the right to a fair trial. The Court noted an incident in 2007 when security personnel re-arrested the accused in the High Court despite a court order granting them bail.

Armed conflict

Northern Uganda was relatively calm; the region had previously been affected by the long-term conflict between the government and the Lord's Resistance Army (LRA). LRA forces in the Central African Republic, the Democratic Republic of Congo and Sudan continued to commit human rights abuses, including unlawful killings and abductions.

International justice

In June, the International Crimes Act, 2010, which incorporates the Rome Statute of the International Criminal Court (ICC) into domestic law, came into effect.

Arrest warrants issued in 2005 by the ICC for Joseph Kony, leader of the LRA, and three LRA commanders remained in force, but the men remained at large.

Bomb attacks

In July, at least 76 people were killed and hundreds injured in bomb attacks by unknown people at two different public venues in Kampala. Following criminal investigations, 17 people of different nationalities including Ugandans, Kenyans and Somalis were charged with terrorism and murder and committed to stand trial in November in connection with the attacks. The trial process was continuing at the end of the year.

Up to 12 suspects were transferred from Kenya to Uganda outside established legal processes in both countries (see Kenya entry).

  • In September, Al-Amin Kimathi, head of the Muslim Human Rights Forum, an NGO in Kenya, was arrested in Uganda, along with Kenyan lawyer Mbugua Mureithi. The two had travelled from Kenya to Uganda to observe the trial of six Kenyans charged with terrorism in connection with the bomb attacks. Mbugua Mureithi was held incommunicado for three days then deported to Kenya. Al-Amin Kimathi was held incommunicado for six days and charged with terrorism and murder in connection with the July bomb attacks. The Ugandan authorities gave no details of the allegations against him; he appeared to have been arrested and charged solely for carrying out his legitimate work. He remained in prison at the end of the year.

Freedom of expression

The Regulation of Interception of Communications Act, 2010 became law in September. It gives the government far-reaching discretion in surveillance and interception of all forms of communication. The law lacks adequate safeguards and threatens freedom of expression.

The government proposed a Press and Journalists (Amendment) Bill which would, if enacted, significantly restrict freedom of expression by allowing the authorities to refuse to grant licences to print media outlets on broad and loosely defined grounds such as "national security". The Bill had not been submitted to Parliament by the end of the year.

Dozens of journalists faced various criminal charges related to their media work and materials critical of government policy and practice.