- 241,038 sq km
- Total Population
- 34,500,000 (UN 2011)
- Prison Rate
- 92 (per 100.000 of national population)
- Capital Punishment
- retained, including ordinary crimes
- not signed/ratified
Located in East Africa, the Republic of Uganda has a diverse cultural society with over 56 tribes.1 It is dominantly Christian with Christians making up 85% of the population, followed by Muslims with 12% and other religious beliefs with 3%.2 The 1995 Constitution as amended is the supreme law of the Republic of Uganda. It provides for the separation of powers of the executive, judicial and the legislative branches of Government. The President is the head of the executive and is elected by universal adult suffrage. The majority of Members of Parliament are directly elected except for special interest groups (representatives for the youth, persons with disabilities, women, workers and the army, who are elected through electoral colleges).
Since its independence from the United Kingdom in 1962, Uganda experienced almost 20 years of military rule (1966-1986). In 1996, the first ever elections were conducted with Yoweri Kaguta Museveni winning a landslide victory ten years after he had actually taken over power in Kampala with his National Resistance Army. A July 2005 national referendum resulted in the adoption of a multiparty system of Government, but in September 2005 Parliament amended the constitution to remove term limits for the presidency, enabling President Museveni to run again in the 2006 and 2011 elections.3
The 2001, 2006 and 2011 elections were, according to an Amnesty International, all criticised for having been marred by irregularities which disenfranchised voters, use of excessive force by law enforcement officials, and harassment of opposition parties, and were falling short of standards of free and fair elections.4
Uganda has also experienced tumultuous years caused by the Lord's Resistance Army (LRA) rebel group, which intended to overthrow the Ugandan Government. The LRA operated in northern Uganda from 1986 to 2006, killing tens of thousands of people and abducting children, who were forced to serve as soldiers and slaves. Approximately 1.8 million Ugandans were displaced in the context of this conflict.5 After decades of internal strife, Uganda has in resent years experienced relative political stability and economic growth. However, rampant corruption6 and one of the world’s highest population growth rates present challenges to the country’s economic situation and political stability. The global economic downturn has had a negative impact on Uganda’s exports, but Uganda’s GDP growth is still relatively strong at 6.4 %.7 Nevertheless, Uganda is still ranked low on the human development index on the 161th position.8
Uganda’s human rights situation has certainly somewhat improved in recent years and its constitution provides for various fundamental rights and freedoms.9 However, according to the Human Rights Watch World Report 2012,10 freedom of expression and assembly has been infringed by regular harassment of peaceful protestors by security forces, e.g. at the “walk to work” protests in 2011.11 Still a retentionist country, Uganda is said to have executed at least five people in 2010.12 In 2003 the Supreme Court upheld the death penalty as constitutional.13 Uganda also came under severe criticism over an anti-homosexuality bill that foresees the death penalty for persons found guilty of homosexual acts.14
Situation of Torture and Ill-Treatment
Uganda ratified the United Nations Convention against Torture (CAT) in 1986, though it is yet to ratify the Optional Protocol to the Convention against Torture (OPCAT). As of February 2012, Uganda has not made a declaration in accordance with article 22 of the CAT; in 2001 it accepted the inter-state complaints mechanism in accordance with article 21. The International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR) was ratified in 1995. Uganda is also a State Party to the African Charter on Human and Peoples’ Rights, which prohibits torture in article 5.
The country has not yet established a National Preventive Mechanism, but the Uganda Human Rights Commission (UHRC),15 as established by the Constitution, is mandated to receive and hold hearings on torture complaints, investigate into allegations of torture, visit places of detention with an aim of preventing torture, and bringing perpetrators to court, as well as to promote and protect human rights in the country.
Uganda has ratified the Rome Statute of the International Criminal Court in 2002 and was the fourth country in Africa to transpose the Rome Statute by passing the International Criminal Court Act, 2010.16
The 1995 Constitution prohibits torture in article 24 and provides in article 44 that it is a non-derogable right. However, there is currently no law criminalising torture in Uganda.
Practice of Torture and Ill-Treatment
Uganda ratified the CAT 26 years ago, but the practice of torture and ill-treatment is still prevalent: according to the Uganda Human Rights Commission’s annual reports, freedom from torture has been the most violated right in the country for the last three years.17 A civil society coalition, called the Coalition Against Torture, tries to lobby for the passing of a law that condemns the practice of torture: The Prohibition and Prevention of Torture Bill 2009 seeks to criminalise torture, as there is currently no specific offence of torture in the Ugandan Penal Code.18
A Human Rights Watch report19 highlights that the conditions in prisons are still far below internationals standards but are improving since the enactment of the Prisons Act 2006. Several challenges exist, such as the practice of holding detainees in detention without bringing them before a judge, overcrowding, hard labour in most rural prisons, poor sanitation and hygiene, which threaten the lives and health of the 50,000 inmates who pass through Uganda’s 223 prisons each year.20
In the course of the UN Human Rights Council’s Universal Periodic Review21 Uganda pledged to incorporate human rights training into the security forces training curriculum. It also established a human rights desk in consultation with the Uganda Human Rights Commission as an accountability measure regarding human rights violations by security forces.
13rd Schedule of the 1995 Constitution of the Republic of Uganda as amended
2Background note: Uganda http://www.state.gov/r/pa/ei/bgn/2963.htm
4Uganda: Human rights concerns in the run-up to the February 2011 general elections
5Background note: Uganda http://www.state.gov/r/pa/ei/bgn/2963.htm
Sources: BBC Country Profiles: Uganda, UN Population Fund. “State of the World Population 2011, International Centre for Prison Studies, Amnesty International: Abolitionist and retention countries, United Nations Treaty Collection Database, APT OPCAT Database