Strengthening the prevention of torture in Uganda

Tuesday, March 24, 2009

Strengthening the prevention of torture in UgandaUganda has ratified most of the International Human Rights Treaties including the United Nations Convention against Torture (UNCAT), and has demonstrated clear engagement and cooperation with international and regional human rights mechanisms. To assist Uganda in fulfilling its international obligations under UNCAT, a coalition of human rights organizations, in collaboration with the APT, have initiated a draft Bill on prohibition and prevention of torture in Uganda. A meeting on this draft Bill for key national stakeholders took place on Friday 27 March in Kampala.

 

Date:
27 - 30 March 2009
Place:
Kampala, Uganda
Purpose:

General Objective:

  • Preventing torture in Uganda by the enactment of an anti-torture law.


Specific objectives:

  • Provide technical support in the drafting of a law on prohibition and prevention of torture.
  • Bring together Parliamentarians from relevant Parliamentary Committees and senior government officials to share thoughts and conduct consultations on the draft Bill initiated by Civil society organizations and the Uganda Human Rights Commission (UHRC), for its improvement.
  • Intensify/develop an interactive and constructive relationship and dialogue between Parliamentarians, Government institutions, Civil Society Organizations and the UHRC.
  • Create awareness and engage the support of the Legislature in the fight against torture.
Partners:

African Centre for Treatment and Rehabilitation of Torture Victims (ACTV)

Uganda Human Rights Commission (UHRC)

Activities:
In 2006, the APT began a five-year torture prevention programme in Uganda in partnership with two key local human rights actors namely the African Centre for Treatment and Rehabilitation of Torture Victims (ACTV) and the UHRC. The kick-off event of this programme was the organisation of a training workshop on monitoring places of detention for civil society organizations and the UHRC in November 2006.

From 17 to 18 June 2008, the APT organised a national OPCAT seminar jointly with the UHRC and in collaboration with the ACTV. The seminar adopted a resolution establishing a Working Group on Torture chaired by the UHRC with the mandate inter alia to advocate for the effective implementation of the UN Convention against Torture (UNCAT) in Uganda including the adoption and implementation of a specific anti-torture Bill.

It is in this context that the a Coalition of Ugandan human rights organizations led by the ACTV together with the UHRC in collaboration with the APT initiated a draft Bill on prohibition and prevention of torture in order to help Uganda to meet its obligations under the UNCAT.

To this end, on the 27 March 2009, the APT, ACTV and UHRC facilitated a meeting on the draft Bill for key national stakeholders including Parliamentarians, Senior Government Officials, Representatives from the Judiciary and Government Institutions, to share thoughts and consult on the draft Bill for its improvement. Apart from reviewing the draft Bill, the purpose of the meeting was also to serve as a part of a consultative process to ensure that the draft bill is passed. About 50 participants attended the Meeting including 11 Members of Parliament (MPs), 9 representatives of Government Institutions, 23 from NGOs and the UHRC and 5 international partners.

After the opening remarks, a presentation on the draft Bill was followed by lively discussions where participants agreed that despite the fact that Uganda is party to the UNCAT, it only has a constitutional provision against torture, which falls short of defining torture. Uganda hasn't yet incorporated the UNCAT provisions into its legislation, where the initiative of designing a draft anti-torture Bill was welcomed and appreciated. Participants provided useful comments and recommendations on the draft Bill.

The meeting also recognized that MPs are very important in this process and have a very important role to play in ensuring that the Bill is passed. MPs are also critical in ensuring that the State performs its obligations under the Convention against Torture. To this end, the Chairperson of Parliamentary Committee on Legal Affairs stated their commitment to work with Civil Society Organisations and the UHRC to have the Bill passed.

On 30 March 2009, the APT facilitated a working session of the Anti-Torture Working Group which reviewed the draft bill to incorporate comments and recommendations gathered during the MPs meeting. It also discussed a way forward and strategies for the next steps of the process. 
Outcome:
  • The preliminary draft anti-torture bill was improved.
  • The dialogue and relationship between MPs, Civil Society Organizations (CSOs) and the UHRC was enhanced.
  • The commitment of MPs to support the process for the anti-torture bill to be passed.
  • Public awareness was raised through the media coverage.
Next Steps:
  • Incorporating all comments and recommendations generated at the meeting into the draft Bill for a final draft.
  • Sharing the final draft with members of the Coalition Against Torture and the Working Group on Torture.
  • Formation of a task force for the fast tracking of the Bill, utilizing the expertise and advice of Members of Parliament who have expressed willingness to have the Bill passed.
  • Identifying a cross-party group of MPs especially members of the Parliamentary Committee on Legal Affairs to take the Bill to Parliament as a Private Members' Bill.
  • Use of the media to popularize the Bill among the public.
  • The APT to continue providing advice and support to the Ugandan actors towards adoption of the Bill.
Documents:

Press Briefing Note in: PDF Word

Download the Report of the Consultative Meeting

Download the Draft Torture Bill

Contact Person:
Jean-Baptiste Niyizurugero, APT Africa Programme Officer
{gallery}uganda0309{/gallery}