Uganda
Head of state and government
Yoweri Kaguta Museveni

Restrictions on freedoms of expression and association continued. LGBTI people continued to face harassment. Police and other law enforcement officials continued to commit human rights violations, including torture, and perpetrators were not held to account.

Background

The government accepted recommendations on the rights to freedom of expression, assembly and non-discrimination in February during the assessment of the country’s human rights record under the UN Universal Periodic Review in 2011.

The courts nullified constituency election results from 2011 which led to by-elections. Opposition parties subsequently won seven out of the nine seats contested.

Allegations of embezzlement within the Office of the Prime Minister led the UK, Sweden and Denmark to withhold aid money. Ministers charged in connection with allegations of embezzlement of public funds intended for the Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting in 2007 were acquitted.

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Freedom of expression

Journalists, opposition leaders and activists critical of the authorities continued to face intimidation, harassment, arbitrary arrest and trumped-up charges. At least 70 journalists reported physical attacks and arbitrary detention during the year.

  • Police harassed, beat and damaged equipment of journalists Isaac Kasamani and William Ntege while they filmed the arrest of Dr Kizza Besigye, leader of the Forum for Democratic Change (FDC), in September.

The government body regulating the mass media, the Ugandan Media Council (UMC), banned the staging of two plays in theatres. When one of them, The River and the Mountain, was informally staged in other areas in September, its co-producer, David Cecil, was arrested. He was charged with “disobeying an order by a public official” and released on bail. It was strongly suspected that the play was banned because the authorities believed it promoted homosexuality. Another play, State of the Nation, which was critical of the government’s stance on corruption and poor governance issues, was banned in October. The producers subsequently staged the play twice and no further action was taken against them.

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Freedom of assembly and association

The Attorney General declared the pressure group Activists for Change (A4C) an unlawful society and banned it in April. The group had resumed demonstrations which began in 2011 against the rising cost of living, corruption and poor governance, and which were violently suppressed by the police. The declaration was inconsistent with respect for the rights of freedom of assembly, speech and association.

In October, the authorities banned demonstrations ahead of Uganda’s 50th anniversary of independence, and dispersed marches organized by the group For God and My Country (4GC) to demand investigations into the killings of protesters in 2011. Dr Kizza Besigye, leader of the FDC, was arbitrarily arrested twice and released without charge. Police justified the restrictions on the grounds that 4GC comprised many of the same people as the banned group A4C.

Government targeted advocacy NGOs and activists with dissenting views on oil governance, land, corruption and human rights for intimidation, harassment, surveillance and obstruction. Offices of some NGOs were reportedly broken into and equipment stolen and police searched and confiscated equipment of some NGOs.

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Rights of lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and intersex people

The 2009 Anti-Homosexuality Bill was reintroduced before Parliament in February, but was not debated pending a report by the Parliamentary and Legal Affairs Committee. In October, the Speaker of Parliament stated that the Bill would “soon” be debated. If passed, it would further entrench discrimination against LGBTI people and lead to other human rights violations.

Restrictions on the right to freedom of association by LGBTI groups increased. In February the Minister of Ethics and Integrity forcibly closed a workshop for LGBTI activists in Entebbe, alleging that it was illegal. In June, police arbitrarily closed a workshop and briefly detained the organizers. The workshop, organized by the East and Horn of Africa Human Rights Defenders Project, was to teach human rights monitoring skills to LGBTI activists from Rwanda, Tanzania and Kenya, as well as Uganda. The Ministry of Internal Affairs threatened to deregister 38 NGOs, accusing them of promoting homosexuality.

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International justice

In May, Caesar Acellam Otto, a senior commander in the Lord’s Resistance Army (LRA), was captured by government forces. The same month, the Minister of Internal Affairs removed a provision in the Amnesty Act 2010 which had granted amnesty to LRA fighters. The law had previously shielded perpetrators of international crimes from prosecution and denied justice to victims.

The government began investigations into Caesar Acellam Otto, but by the end of the year no charges were preferred against him and his detention remained incommunicado. It was unclear whether he and others subsequently captured would be effectively prosecuted by the International Crimes Division of the High Court.

The International Criminal Court’s arrest warrants issued in 2005 remained in force for LRA leader Joseph Kony and three LRA commanders. The men were still at large at the end of the year.

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Refugees and migrants

The cessation of international protection for Rwandan refugees and asylum-seekers who fled before 1998 was postponed until June 2013. Uganda, Rwanda and UNHCR, the UN refugee agency, held tripartite discussions about implementing the cessation clause.

In March, the Constitutional Court heard a petition to determine whether refugees have the right to acquire Ugandan citizenship. The hearing was repeatedly postponed and remained pending, raising concerns that it might be difficult for Rwandan refugees who do not want to return to Rwanda to obtain alternative status, including citizenship.

Over 40,000 Congolese refugees fled into Uganda because of renewed fighting between the Congolese army and the armed group known as M23, and the general insecurity caused by various armed groups in the North Kivu province of the Democratic Republic of the Congo from April onwards.

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Torture and other ill-treatment

The Anti-Torture Act, which came into force in 2012, prohibits, criminalizes and holds individuals responsible for acts of torture. It expands the definition of torture to include non-state actors and makes information obtained through torture inadmissible in court. If enforced, the Anti-Torture Act would address impunity, enable justice for the victims and reduce torture.

However, torture and other ill-treatment by police remained widespread. Despite investigations by the Uganda Human Rights Commission, no action was taken to hold law enforcement officials responsible for human rights violations to account, or to grant victims and their families an effective remedy.

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Death penalty

Civilian and military courts continued to impose the death penalty for capital offences. There were no executions in 2012.

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