Human Rights Defenders, under their umbrella body the National Coalition of Human Rights Defenders Uganda (NCHRD-U), have asked Parliament to speed up the process of enacting the Human Rights bill into a law so as to provide a conducive environment for the rights watchdogs in their course of duty.
Addressing the press at their offices in Kampala, Robert Kilenga, the Executive Director NCHRD-U, revealed that there is a need to pass this law such that defenders can enjoy the space to do their work like any other individuals or agencies.
“This law is meant to legitimize the work of human rights defenders as provided for under Article 38 of the constitution. Once passed, RDCs and some errant security personnel will be able to understand that defenders, journalists and others have a right to perform their duties,” Kilenga said.
Kilenga added that on several occasions, the security personnel have arrested and detained several defenders on duty without clear reasons, giving an example of 8 lawyers who were arrested in Kiryandongo on orders of DPC Joseph Bakaleke on September 4, 2020.
Catherine Anite, the Executive Director for Freedom of Expression Hub pointed out that towards the election period, violation cases tend to rise. She noted that in the same period, the press freedom and expression rights continue to be under attack.
“On July 26, 2020, Ugandan comedians Bizonto, journalist Basajja Mivule and musician Kiwewa were arrested on allegations of promoting sectarianism and held beyond 48 hours without appearing before any court of law,” Anite stated.
The women also expressed concern on the unprecedented number of domestic violence cases during the lockdown period which didn’t even spare the female defenders especially with in the countryside.
In June this year, Gulu Municipality Member of Parliament Lyandro Komakech tabled a private Members Bill titled ‘Human Rights Defenders Bill 2020’.
This bill, once turned into law, will defend the rights of other persons like human rights organizations, activists and lawyers who have been a target for security agencies and businessmen in the course of their duties.
This legislation is in addition to the protection they are granted under Article 50 of the constitution.