Chairperson Mr. Med S.K Kaggwa led a team of officials from the Uganda Human Rights Commission to present the UHRC Ministerial Policy Statement covering Financial Year 2019/2020 for consideration by the Legal and Parliamentary Affairs Committee of Parliament, today Friday 5th April 2019. The Chairperson of the Legal and Parliamentary Affairs Committee Hon Oboth Oboth commended the Commission for its good work especially in sensitizing the public about their rights and duties through radio talk shows. He congratulated the Commission for having been ranked as an “A” status National Human Rights Institution (NHRI) at the recent UN meeting for NHRIs from all over the world which took place last month in Geneva, Switzerland. The UHRC Chairperson explained that accreditation as an “A” status organisation is done after each of the NHRIs has gone through a rigorous assessment of its work over the previous four years and is done by the Global Alliance for Human Rights Institution (GANHRI) based in Geneva. The “A” status ranking is certification that the NHRI has complied with the international requirements provided under the Paris Principles to guide operations of NHRIs globally. The “A” status accreditation is therefore a plus for the Uganda Human Rights Commission. The UHRC Ministerial Policy Statement presented by the Acting Secretary to the Commission Ms. Margaret Lucy Ejang included brief highlights of the budget performance for the current financial year to date; projected budget allocations to UHRC for the period from financial year 2019/2020 to 2022/2023 and critical emerging policy issues at the Commission. In her presentation, Ms. Ejang also made a case for a number of unfunded priorities by the UHRC totaling to over Shs 35 billion which government had not availed to UHRC to fund core activities including staff salary enhancement; approval of expanded staff structure; civic education programmes; procurement of motor vehicles for mobility; investigation and resolution of complaints and opening countrywide offices that are intended to take services closer to the people. In his opening remarks, Mr. Kaggwa while expressing gratitude to the government of Uganda for progressively increasing its budgetary support to the Uganda Human Rights Commission over the years, he reiterated UHRC’s earlier appeals for increased funding from Government to avoid continued dependency on donor funding. He once again underscored the need for government to fully fund the UHRC which is Uganda’s National Human Rights Institution (NHRI), as a way of fulfilling Uganda’s obligations under the Paris Principles. “The Commission is grateful for the support and efforts extended to us by your committee over the years to ensure that we are fully funded by government. Positive results have been registered in the recent past and we thank the Government of Uganda for increasing the Commission’s budget funding which currently stands at about 80 per cent of our entire budget. We look forward to the day when the Commission budget will be funded 100 per cent by the Government of Uganda.” Mr. Kaggwa further pointed out the challenge of inadequate manpower strength at the Commission and the continued delays in approving the implementation of the Commission’s expanded staff structure which has curtailed the capacity to carry out its wide mandate of protection and promotion of human rights in the entire country. He regretted the perennial underfunding of UHRC which he said has had a negative impact on its capacity to effectively perform its Constitutional mandate. Reacting to numerous commentaries by Members of Parliament of the Legal and Parliamentary Affairs committee, the Chairperson of the Uganda Human Rights Mr. Med Kaggwa assured them and the country at large, of efforts by the Commission to achieve tangible improvement in the respect and observance of human rights by all state actors. He highlighted some of the Commission’s interventions that are aimed at improving the protection and promotion of human rights and freedoms in Uganda which among others he said include the provision of continuous civic education programmes; engagement with top leadership of security agencies on recurrent human rights violations by their personnel; human rights training for personnel in security agencies; investigation and resolution of complaints of human rights violations. The UHRC Chairperson was also optimistic that implementation of the new law on Prevention and Prohibition of Torture which provides for individual liability of human rights violators will act as a deterrent to others. Mr. Kaggwa also pointed out other measures put in place to curb the rampant human rights violations such as the recently approved policy requiring that cash compensation awards to victims of human rights violations will no longer be charged against the Attorney General’s budget but from budgets of those MDAs whose personnel have been found guilty of violating human rights. He said this new measure will also serve to check the incidence of human rights violations since it will force MDAs who have suffered budget cuts to pay compensations to victims, to reprimand their errant officers. Affected MDAs will as a matter of necessity also put in place strict mechanisms to monitor the observance and respect of human rights by their personnel in the performance of their work to forestall future violations. He assured MPs that UHRC is equally concerned about the recurrent incidents of human rights violations by security agencies especially in period leading up to the upcoming elections. He said the UHRC had therefore commenced efforts of lobbying for funding to implement its Early Warning Mechanism Strategy through which it has already carried out the mapping of election violence hot spots in the country and has designed pre- election interventions. Responding to concerns raised by some MPs on the lengthy UHRC investigation process of human rights complaints which they noted has in some instances led to loss of interest by some complainants, Ms. Ida Nakiganda the UHRC Director of Legal, Investigations and Complaints informed them of the cardinal need of the Commission as a human rights institution to respect the rules of natural justice. She pointed out that these demand that all parties in the case are accorded a hearing. She however pledged that the UHRC shall endeavor to provide regular updates to complainants on the progress of their cases as a way of managing their expectations. On the recent case involving the killing of Ronald Ssebulime by Police personnel for being suspected to have attempted to assassinate Hon Aida Nantaba last month, the UHRC Director of Complaints, Investigations and Legal Services informed the committee of Parliament that although the Police had instituted criminal proceedings against the officers involved, the UHRC had also on its own volition commenced investigations into the matter since it involved an act of extra judicial killing and therefore a violation of the right to life. Still at the meeting, Members of Parliament also urged UHRC to step up its monitoring function of detention centers especially those at Police stations to ensure that suspects are not detained for long periods before being produced in courts of law. The Chairperson of UHRC concurred with MPs on Police high-handedness during some arrests and wrong interpretation of the Public Order Management Act which has in many cases impeded the full enjoyment of freedoms to associate which has mainly affected political actors of the opposition parties. He clarified the UHRC is on record for pointing out to the police and the public that the law (POMA) does not give police powers to grant permission for public gatherings but instead requires it to regulate them. Mr. Kaggwa however, urged members of the public especially politicians wishing to hold public gatherings to always fully cooperate with the police in order to reach an amicable position with them on the conditions they need to fulfill to enjoy their freedom of association and assembly. The Chairperson of the Committee Hon Oboth Oboth noted the challenges facing the Uganda Human Rights Commission especially with regard to inadequate funding and pledged that his committee will not relent in making a case for improved funding from Government for the Commission. The UHRC delegation to the Legal and Parliamentary Affairs Committee also included the newly appointed Member of the Commission Dr. Patricia Achan Okiria, Heads of Directorates and other senior technical staff. While the Members of Parliament who also attended the meeting included Hon Agaba Abbas, Hon. Asuman Basalirwa, and Hon. Obua Denis among others.
Friday, April 5, 2019 - 14:45