Uganda deserves praise for having a policy of economic integration of refugees, unlike neighboring countries. But despite nominally creating multiple positions to address human rights issues in country, many of Uganda’s human rights commitments remain unfulfilled.
In practice, the government shows limited commitment to protecting freedom of expression, association, and assembly. State violence, including torture and extrajudicial killings, occur without investigation.
Many abuses were evident during the 2016 elections. Despite the government’s promises, significant concerns were voiced, reflected in the conclusions of local electoral observers that the elections were neither free nor fair.
The government had said that it supports “a strong, vibrant and responsible free press, freedom of speech and broad participation.” But in fact, government officials and police arrested and beat over a dozen journalists, in some cases during live broadcasts, during the 2016 electoral period. On election day, the telecommunications regulator directed telecom companies to block social media networks for “security reasons” and the ban lasted five days. Those are not the actions of a government seeking broad participation of its citizens.
Some laws are either selectively applied, such as the Public Order Management Act. Other laws that could improve human rights protections are simply not implemented. Despite, for instance, the anti-torture law,s state officials continue to act with impunity. In practice, charges simply are not brought.
There have been no investigations into the killings by the police and the military from September 2009 or in April 2011. Since this UPR process began, in November 2016, at least 100 people, including children, have been killed by the military in Kasese, Western Uganda during a military assault on the region’s cultural institution. The military has openly admitted that there is no investigation into the conduct of security forces involved in the assault and killings, while hundreds of civilians face criminal charges in connection with the events and remain behind bars. An independent impartial investigation with international expertise may be the only way that the circumstances surrounding the conduct of the security forces in Kasese will be investigated and brought to light.