This law which was enacted in 2019, provided for the procedure of enforcing rights under Chapter four of the Constitution as well as the enforcement of rights and freedoms by courts of law. But even in its infancy, Judicial officers want the law amended on grounds that it has several contradicting provisions.
Human rights promoters and
officers from various government entities under the Justice, Law and Order
Sector have disagreed over calls to amend the Human Rights Enforcement Act.
This law which was enacted in
2019, provided for the procedure of enforcing rights under Chapter four of the Constitution
as well as the enforcement of rights and freedoms by courts of law. But even in
its infancy, Judicial officers want the law amended on grounds that it has
several contradicting provisions.
The matter came up during the
symposium on Appraising the Operationability of the Human Rights Enforcement
Act, 2019 which was attended by officials from the Uganda Human Rights
Commission, The United Nations, Uganda Law Society, Uganda Police Force, Uganda
Prisons Service, The Directorate of Public Prosecutions and the judiciary. The
symposium was held in Entebbe on Thursday.
During the discussions, High
Court Judge Phillip Odoki noted that Parliament has to amend the law to address contradictory
provisions within. One of the contradictions he cited was the timelines for determining
human rights cases and appeals and the forum for filing private prosecutions.
While the Rules Committee of the Judiciary provided that private prosecutions should be filed in the Constitutional Court, the
Act puts the jurisdiction before the Magistrates and the High Court. The act
also provides that the courts should determine the matters before them within 90-days from the date of filing.
But Odoki says that the judiciary
has few judges to ensure that the High Court determines matters within the
stipulated timeframe. He adds that although the Act provides for nullifying a trial when a
suspect notifies the court that his or her human rights have been violated, these
are two issues that must be handled separately.
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Similarly, the spokesperson of
the Uganda Prisons Service Frank Baine faulted parliament for not consulting before enacting a law with such visible contradictions. He cited
Section 15, where a person who has reason to believe that another is
being unreasonably detained may petition the High Court for unconditional
release, saying prisons officers
cannot determine which inmates qualify for unconditional release.
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However, David Kabanda, the Executive
Director of the Centre for Food and Adequate Living Rights and lawyer Luyimbazi
Nalukoola opposed the proposed amendments
and argued that the law needs to be tested before it can be amended.
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Robert Kirunda, another lawyer observed that the law is very significant in ensuring access to
justice for ordinary citizens and that public officers must know that they can now
be sued in their individual capacity for violating human rights.
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Robert Kotchani, the Country
Representative Office of the High Commissioner United Nations Human Rights noted that the Act is the most progressive since the promulgation of
the 1995 Constitution, yet human rights violations continue
due to the lack of political will.
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The Chairperson of the Uganda
Human Rights Commission-UHRC Mariam Wangadya says the Act was long overdue
because there were no procedures to enforce human rights since 1995.