UN Human Rights Committee expresses concern about the situation in Northern Uganda: FIDH and FHRI publish an alternative report to the Government of Uganda’s Initial report on Civil and Political Rights in Uganda

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The International Federation for Human Rights (FIDH) and the Foundation for Human Rights Initiative (FHRI) welcome the Concluding observations of the UN Human Rights Committee on the examination of the first periodic report of the government of Uganda, which were released last week. The organizations had presented a report (1) to the Committee which preoccupations are legally reflected in the Committee’s conclusions. The FIDH and the FHRI welcome in particular the following concerns of the Committee:

1. The lack of protection for the internally displaced persons confined in camps in Northern Uganda frequently targeted by the Lord Resistance Army and by government forces. In particular, our organizations express their concerns regarding the failure by the government to terminate the 18-year old war in Northern Uganda, which has led to the loss of many lives and displacement of half a million people, as well as the absence of adequate security in displacement camps. Our organizations also denounce the numerous reports of arbitrary arrests in the North, specifically of internally displaced persons suspected of being rebels.

2. The excessive use of force by law enforcement officials, and particularly the extra-judicial execution of civilians and the wide practice of torture in detention centres and notably in ungazzeted detention centres (safe houses). Our organizations reported many instances of loss of lives, torture and ill treatment in detention centres. Moreover, the organizations share the concerns of the Committee, which denounced the frequent lack of implementation of Uganda Human Rights Commission’s decisions to award compensation to victims of human rights violations and to prosecute their alleged authors.

3. The deplorable prisons conditions in Uganda, and in particular overcrowding, poor sanitation, malnutrition, inadequate bedding, lack of basic necessities and exploitation of prison labour.

4. Defections in the administration of justice. In particular, the FIDH and FHRI are concerned about the abuses of jurisdiction, violations of court procedures, lack of legal representation, lack of adequate training of defence attorneys, and prolonged detention, which have led to a lack of confidence in the judiciary, often leading to mob justice.

5. The call for the review of the Anti-Terrorism Act 2002, which criminalizes terrorist organizations without establishing objective criteria for determining membership in such organizations.

6. The violation of the right to peacefully demonstrate. Indeed, our organizations underline that the police has, on many occasions, dispersed rallies organised by the opposition, in a violent manner, which has led to a number of deaths.

In addition, our organizations vigorously recommend that death penalty be abolished, and express their concerns about the long periods that convicted prisoners spend on death row.

The FIDH and FHRI call upon the authorities to urgently implement the recommendations of the Human Rights Committee.

(1) FIDH/FHRI alternative report: « Uganda: a situation of systematic violations of civil and political rights », February 2004.

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