The Uganda Human Rights Commission (UHRC) has reported a decline in cases of human rights violations in the year 2012. In its 15th annual report to Parliament detailing the status of human rights observance across the country, the Commission registered a 31% decline with only 706 new complaints recorded.
The report ranks violation of freedom from torture and cruel inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment, violation of the right to personal liberty and violation of the right to child maintenance top on the list of human rights abuses in 2012.
While delivering the annual report to the Speaker of Parliamenton Tuesday April 3, 2013, the Commission Chairperson Hon. MediKaggwafaulted state institutions for violating the freedom from torture, cruel inhuman or degrading treatment in which303 cases were registered.
Despite the decline in cases reported, the UHRC says the Uganda Police Force had the majority of cases of human rights violations reported against it. The Commission wants Police personnel to use modern techniques of investigation and equipment to avoid the use of torture in obtaining information.
“Some police officers have not seen the Constitution and other relevant laws they have to implement while executing their duties. They should be equipped with the relevant compendium of laws”, the Commission Chair noted.
UHRC listed the low wages for teachers, health workers, civil servants and the delayed payment of pension to retired civil servants as emerging human rights issues that have an impact on service delivery.
Hon. MediKaggwa also reported several challenges in the prisons and detention facilities where the high prison population and the detention of juveniles with adults remain key challenges.
The Commission has proposed several decongesting measures that include the amendment of the law to prohibit the detention of civil debtors, the use of alternative dispute resolution mechanisms and the appointment of more judges and magistrates to handle cases especially in the countryside.
Kaggwa reported that 172 civil debtors were detained in several prison facilities by November 2012.
UHRC also advised Parliament not to approve laws that violate human rights standards to which government is committed. The report cites the Public Order Management Bill, the Marriage and Divorce Bill and the Prevention and Control of HIV bill currently before Parliament as bills that do not comply with human rights standards.
The Speaker of Parliament Rt. Hon. Rebecca Kadaga urged the Commission to follow up on matters relating to justice for Persons with Disabilities (PWDs). She wondered whether PWDs with special needs are being adequately helped in the medical facilities and in the courts of law where they require sign language interpreters.
Rt. Hon. Kadagaalso expressed concern over cases of child abuse and neglect handled being handled by the Uganda Human Rights Commission yet the Family Court is in place. She confirmed that this court had been set up to handle such cases of human rights abuses and violations.
The Speaker hailed the UHRC for its timely reports but appealed to government to table country reports on human rights before Parliament ahead of their consideration by International agencies.
She warned that ministries and government departments will in the near future be tasked to present a certificate of compliance to human rights as they present reports and proposed activities to Parliament.
The 15th UHRC report will be considered by the newly created Parliamentary Committee on Human Rights in due course.