HRC50: Uganda must better protect women defenders and LGBTIQ+ persons

On 1 July 2022, during the 50th session of the Human Rights Council, Uganda presented the outcome of its 3rd Universal Periodic Review. Only 54% of the recommendations given for review were accepted by Uganda and none of them were related to the protection of human rights defenders. Uganda can and should do better!

Uganda has accepted 149 recommendations out of the 273 received at its third Universal Periodic Review. During the report of the outcome, Uganda’s Permanent Representative to the UN in Geneva, Marcel Robert Tibaleka, stressed the efforts made by his government to welcome refugees within their borders, as well as the measures taken to better protect people with disabilities. Although those efforts have been commended by both States and civil society organisations, Uganda still needs to fulfill other obligations to comply with the international human rights standards.  

The joint statement delivered by ISHR and Women Human Rights Defenders Network Uganda (WHRDN-U) highlighted that the government has shown very little will to change the situation of human rights defenders by noting recommendations on the excessive use of force, the need to combat impunity, freedom of expression and peaceful assembly, and the 16 recommendations concerning civic space and human rights defenders that were offered by all regional groups. The situation is even more difficult for women defenders working to protect the rights of sex workers and the LGBTIQ+ community. Indeed, Uganda accepted none of the recommendations pertaining to the rights of LGBTIQ+ persons. They are still at risk of facing jail sentences that can go up to life. Moreover, Uganda only noted recommendations on the rights to freedom of peaceful assembly and of association. 

Therefore, ISHR calls on Uganda to :

  • Adopt the Human Rights Defenders Bill and ensure it is gender-sensitive to give full force and effect to the UN resolution on the Protection of women defenders and the UN Declaration on Human Rights Defenders
  • Publicly affirm the legitimate role of women defenders and protect them from violations by State and non-State actors by acknowledging such violations and implementing security measures for them
  • Finally, refrain from criminalising the legitimate activities of defenders including women defenders, and repeal all laws and policies that restrict their activities and rights, including the Public Order Management Act, the Anti-Pornography Act, Anti-Money Laundering Act, Anti-Terrorism Act ( as amended), and the Computer Misuse Act. 

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