HRCU WEEKLY UPDATES: ISSUE NO. 33 OF 2023

 

THE HUMAN RIGHTS CENTRE UGANDA (HRCU)

WEEKLY UPDATE ON KEY EMERGING HUMAN RIGHTS ISSUES WITHIN THE WORKING ENVIROMENT OF HRDS IN UGANDA

THE WEEK OF 4TH TO 10TH DECEMBER 2023

Dear reader,

welcome to this new week,

Last week, Uganda joined the rest of world to commemorate the International HRDs day and the International Human Rights Day. Every year on December 10th, Human Rights Day commemorates the day the United Nations General Assembly adopted the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (UDHR) in 1948. The UDHR is a foundational document that recognizes the inherent dignity and equal rights of all members of the human family. This year, was the 75th anniversary of one of the world's most groundbreaking global pledges: The Universal Declaration of Human Rights (UDHR).

In addition, on the International HRD day, HRCU issued a press statement which can be accessed here

In Uganda, celebrations to mark the two days mentioned above were spearheaded by the National Coalition of Human Rights Defenders Uganda and a series of activities were concluded which included tree planning, awarding and recognition of HRDs, and matching through Jinja city to raise awareness on the work of HRDs and their role in Uganda.

US SANCTIONS PRISONS BOSS BYABASHAIJA OVER TORTURE

The U.S. Office of Foreign Assets Control has sanctioned Johnson Byabashaija, the Commissioner General of the Uganda Prisons Service for alleged gross human rights abuses targeted at government critics and marginalized groups since 2005.

Byabashaija is part of 20 other people sanctioned by the same office for their connection to human rights abuse in nine countries.

The office contends that during the period under review, members of the Uganda Prisons Service engaged in torture and other serious human rights abuse against prisoners held within prison facilities.

“During that period, members of the UPS have engaged in torture and other serious human rights abuse against prisoners held within UPS facilities. Prisoners have reported being tortured and beaten by UPS staff and by fellow prisoners at the direction of UPS staff. Members of vulnerable groups, including government critics and members of Uganda’s LGBTQI+ community, have been beaten and held without access to legal counsel; for example, in a 2020 case, the UPS denied a group of LGBTQI+ persons access to their lawyers and members of the group reportedly endured physical abuse, including a forced anal examination and scalding,” the office said in a statement.

Source: https://www.kfm.co.ug/news/us-sanctions-prisons-boss-byabashaija-over-torture.html

OIL PIPELINE: TOTALENERGIES FORCING COMMUNITIES TO ACCEPT 'LOW' COMPENSATION

French oil company, TotalEnergies coerces and intimidates communities affected by the $5 billion East African Crude Oil Pipeline (EACOP) project in Tanzania and Uganda, a human rights organization has said.

Residents along the 1,443-kilometer pipeline route are forced to accept inadequate compensation for their land, according to Global Witness, a human rights and environmental organization. Global Witness accused TotalEnergies of collaborating with Tanzanian and Ugandan authorities to suppress efforts by communities seeking accurate compensation for land taken for the oil pipeline.

The pipeline route stretches from Tanzania’s port city of Tanga to Lake Albert in Uganda. TotalEnergies has denied the allegations. Neither country has commented on the report, but previous criticism, including that from Human Rights Watch and court cases against the displacement and abuses, has not stopped or affected the project.

Hanna Hindstrom, a senior investigator in the Global Witness land and environmental defender campaign, told VOA that TotalEnergies is directly involved in human rights violations.

"We found evidence suggesting that TotalEnergies, through its subsidiary, its contractors and partners, has been party to intimidation and bullying of community members affected by the project,” Hindstrom said.

“Many people we spoke to say they were pressured into accepting compensation for their land and their property that they felt was too low as a result of a climate of fear in both countries.”

Source: https://observer.ug/news/headlines/80000-totalenergies-forcing-communities-into-accepting-low-oil-pipeline-compensation

CHILD LABOR FUELLING REPEAT PREGNANCIES AND EARLY MARRIAGES IN FAR TO REACH AREAS

The new study revealed that Teenage Repeat pregnancies and early /forced marriages are caused by child labor that highly exists in far to reach areas.

The study that was conducted by AMREF Health Africa in four districts namely Mbale, Namayingo, Kalangala and Kween in a period of 7 months further indicated that poverty plays a big role in driving the vice as parents take their young girls as property.

While disseminating the study, Edith Namugabo the Youth and Community Engagement Officer said that irresponsible and negative parenting has also led to the vices explaining that parents abandoned their roles of guiding, protecting and feeding their children most especially girls.

“Sometimes parents do it negatively, they keep discouraging the girls instead of empowering them. That's why they end up losing self-esteem and even fail to fight for their rights”, Namugabo stated.

She added that Ignorance of the community about the dangers of repetitive and early /forced marriages has also continued to put the lives of girls at a high risk of becoming victims.

The study was conducted by AMREF Health Africa and other partners under their programme dubbed Heroes for Gender Transformative Action with support from the Embassy of Netherlands in Uganda. The study was also done in commemoration of the 16 days of activism against Gender Based Violence.

Source: https://capitalradio.co.ug/news/2023-12-11-child-labor-fuelling-repeat-pregnancies-and-early-marriages-in-far-to-reach-areas/

HUMAN RIGHTS DEFENDERS LAUNCH WEEK-LONG ACTIVITIES

In anticipation of the International Day of Human Rights Defenders on December 7 and 8, state actors and various human rights groups, united under the National Coalition of Human Rights Defenders-Uganda, have commenced a series of impactful events.

The chairperson of the organizing committee, Faith Namansa, highlighted the diverse activities planned for the week.

These include a media campaign to raise awareness about human rights defenders, a symbolic walk on the streets of Jinja City, blood donation drives, tree planting initiatives, and cancer screenings.

The aim is not only to celebrate but also to empower and increase awareness of the critical work undertaken by human rights defenders in Uganda.

Robert Kirenga, Chief Executive Officer of the Coalition of Human Rights Defenders – Uganda, emphasized that the two-day event aligns with Article 1 of the United Nations Declaration of Human Rights Defenders.

Source: https://nilepost.co.ug/2023/12/05/human-rights-defenders-launch-week-long-activities/

PRESS FREEDOM: SECURITY AGENCIES, MEDIA OWNERS TO MEET OVER ATTACK ON JOURNALISTS – GOVT

The Minister for Information and National Guidance, Dr. Chris Baryomunsi has hinted on plans to cause a meeting between leaders of security agencies and media owners over harassment of journalists in line of duty.

The minister’s statement follows a call from media owners to the government, calling for an end to the excessive use of force by security agencies to field journalists.

“Is it a question of training that our security people do not have the necessary skills to work with journalists, especially in violent situations? or it is our journalists who lack skills on how to cover violent situations without colliding with security personnel?” Baryomusi wondered.

Minister Baryomunsi said there are plans to meet security agency leaders together with their journalist counterparts to resolve the cause of the standoff.


Source: https://www.kfm.co.ug/news/security-agencies-media-owners-to-meet-over-attack-on-journalists-govt.html

REGIONAL UPDATE

COP28: AFRICAN CIVIL SOCIETY UNVEILS ITS RECOMMENDATIONS FOR THE FIGHT AGAINST CLIMATE CHANGE IN AFRICA

At the United Nations’ climate conference COP 28 an African civil society coalition has unveiled its five absolute priorities to fight climate change: adaptation, loss and damage, food systems; land use; and the protection and restoration of forests.

The priorities were announced by Secou Sarr, Executive Secretary of ENDA-Tiers Monde, representing a collective of African non-governmental organizations (NGOs) at a side event held on Tuesday 5 December, at the ongoing United Nations Climate Conference (COP28) in Dubai.

These NGOs gathered around a common platform launched at COP28 - the "African Development Bank Group-Civil Society Coalition on Climate and Energy". Standing together, the groups intend to have greater influence on debate at COP28.

Africa is the continent that suffers the most from the effects of climate change but receives the least climate finance. African Development Bank President Dr. Akinwumi Adesina made the case to coalition members for the continent to be able to benefit from its natural resources.

Source: https://www.afdb.org/en/news-and-events/cop28-african-civil-society-unveils-its-recommendations-fight-against-climate-change-africa-66720

INTERNATIONAL UPDATE

UN TO HOLD MORE EMERGENCY TALKS ON GAZA AS ISRAEL CLAIMS ADVANCES AGAINST HAMAS. HERE'S THE LATEST

The United Nations General Assembly will on Tuesday resume its emergency session on the situation in Gaza, days after the United States vetoed a UN Security Council resolution calling for a humanitarian ceasefire.

UN staff in Gaza feel abandoned after the US veto, a top official said. They "cannot understand" why a ceasefire has not been agreed upon after thousands have been killed and displaced, the UNRWA chief Philippe Lazzarini told CNN.

The number of people killed in Israeli attacks in Gaza since October 7 has risen to 18,205, the Hamas-controlled health ministry in the enclave said Monday.

On the ground: Israeli troops are encircling Hamas' final two strongholds in northern Gaza, Defense Minister Yoav Gallant claimed Monday. Hamas battalions in the Jabalya and Shejaiya areas were "on the verge of dismantling," he said, adding that surrendering militants had admitted they were short of weapons and food. Meanwhile, the head of the Hamas-run Ministry of Health in Gaza described heavy fighting and a significant Israeli military presence around the Jabalya refugee camp, while a doctor said the Kamal Adwan hospital in Gaza City was surrounded by Israeli forces.

Source: https://edition.cnn.com/middleeast/live-news/israel-hamas-war-gaza-news-12-12-23/index.html

CONCLUDING REMARKS

1.   The importance of business and human rights in oil companies operating in Uganda lies in fostering sustainable and responsible business practices that respect the rights of communities, protect the environment, and contribute positively to social and economic development. This approach is not only ethically sound but also contributes to the long-term success and stability of the oil and gas industry in the region.

2.   Mitigating child labor and forced marriages in Uganda is vital for promoting human rights particularly children’s rights and their overall wellbeing. It requires a comprehensive and coordinated effort from government, civil society, and the international community to ensure that children’s rights are promoted and protected.

3.   Human Rights Defenders Day provides an opportunity to honor the bravery and perseverance of these individuals who fight for justice in the face of adversity. Many defenders face significant risks, including threats, violence, and harassment, yet they remain steadfast in their commitment to upholding human rights. By celebrating their efforts, we not only show our appreciation but also inspire others to join in the fight for justice and equality.

4.   Protecting press freedom is essential for the health and vitality of democratic societies, the protection of human rights, and the overall progress and well-being of nations. Efforts to safeguard press freedom involve upholding legal protections, preventing censorship, and fostering a culture that values the role of an independent and diverse media.    

Thank you for reading. Happy new week

 

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