Uganda records rise in human rights abuses


A report launched yesterday by the United Nations Commission on Human Rights shows that Uganda is experiencing an increase in the number of cases of human rights abuses perpetrated by military and police officers.

The report that was based on an assessment by National Coalition for Human Rights Defenders Uganda (NCHRD-U), found that resident district commissioners, Internal Security Officers at the district and sub-county levels are also key perpetrators of human rights violations at lower levels of government.

The NCHRD-U assessed the State's progress in the implementation of the Universal Periodic Review (UPR) recommendations pertaining to human rights defenders in Uganda, between 2017 and 2019.

The UPR is a mechanism through which the human rights council assesses the human rights situation in each UN member state with the goal of improving human rights situations on the ground.

"The attacks that targeted information holdings and documentation have three years later not been resolved to completion by Uganda Police Force," the report reads in parts.

The report launched by Mr Robert Kotchani, the country representative of the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights, in Kampala, said journalists are experiencing more brutality and death threats.

"In 2018, recorded attacks on the media fraternity reached 163, increasing from 113 in 2017. In Masaka alone, 12 cases of death threats against journalists were reported in November 2018," the report reads in part.

"Accordingly, of the above violations reported and investigated, 87 were committed by the Uganda Police Force (UPF) officers slightly higher than 2017 when police registered 83 cases," the report further states.

Uganda People's Defence Force (UPDF) soldiers from the Special Forces Command perpetrated 14 of the violations, and nine were committed by the Resident District Commissioners (RDCs), according to the report.

"Other forms of harassment included shutting down of radio stations on the orders of the RDCs and the Uganda Communication Commission as was the case with Unity FM in Lira District and Radio Maria in Gulu District," the report reads.

Mr Kotchani asked government to address the violations and adhere to its commitments of protecting the rights of people.

The head of human rights and legal services at the Uganda Police Force, Mr James Kusemererwa, said they are doing a lot as the police force to improve their human rights record.

"We have deployed human rights officers in all regions and you can go to them and record your complaint. But above all, we are addressing the human rights of the people as we fulfil our mandate. Whatever we do is to defend human rights," he said.

Lt Col Deo Karikona, the director of human rights at UPDF, said the force has zero tolerance to violations of human rights.

"We stick to the principle of accountability where implicated officers are punished. We have two ways of discipline; we have cautious and mechanical ways of discipline that we are using to instil discipline and ethics among the soldiers," he said.

"We are constantly guided by the commander in chief, President Museveni, who is the greatest human rights defender. He always writes to us and as a disciplined force, we always adhere to what he says," he added.

This article was published by Daily Monitor.

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