Members of Parliament have been urged to always ensure that the bills and motions they consider pass the human rights compliance test.
A new tool the Check List for Human Rights, a brain child of the Parliament Committee on Human Rights was launched September 10 in Kampala, by the Speaker of Parliament Rt.Hon. Rebecca Kadaga.
Addressing legislators, human rights activists and several participants Speaker Kadaga said the new tool provides a mechanism that would alert MPs to cross check whether the bills they consider comply with human rights.
“It is noteworthy that, whereas the Constitution is emphatic on protecting and guaranteeing human rights and freedoms, there is no guidance from the Constitution to alert Members of Parliament to the inconsistencies that are embedded within the Bills, policy statements, budgets or other business handled by Parliament. It is this that has resulted in some of our enactments being struck down for failure to comply with the human rights contained in our cherished Constitution,” she said.
The Speaker reminded legislators that litigation in the court cases by Ssemwogerere, Andrew Mwenda and Muwanga Kivumbi points to the failure to reconcile the universal demands to promote and protect individual rights and the duties of a free and democratic society.
Rt.Hon.Kadaga noted that although states are the primary duty bearers for the protection and fulfilment of individual rights, the rights are not only endangered by states but also the actions of some individuals.
“The people of Uganda will not find comfort until the rights of all are observed. Although the Constitution provides a whole chapter on human rights, it requires a human rights bill to help in the implementation of its provisions. The absence of the human rights Act will be addressed by the checklist,” she said.
The Speaker decried the use of bucket toilets in the Police cells in Uganda and labelled the practise one of the most dehumanising things that can happen to human being.
H.E Alison Blackburne the British High Commissioners to Uganda reminded legislators of the cardinal role Parliament plays in protecting and promoting human rights as set out in Uganda’s Constitution. She noted that human rights observance was critical if nations are to attain prosperity.
“Human Rights and Good governance are essential for the prosperity and security. Democratic governance and sustainable development cannot take place when people are not able to enjoy their human rights,” she emphasized.
The High Commissioner reaffirmed that all legislators, human rights organisations and other relevant stakeholders need to promote the use of the checklist within and outside Parliament.
This she said will promote accountability to the general public and work towards creating an atmosphere that is free of human rights abuses in Uganda.
MP Jovah Kamateeka the Chairperson of the Human Rights Committee of Parliament appealed to government to review the shoot to kill policy for robbers recently announced by the Uganda Police Force.
She said the policy itself is unconstitutional and may lead to the loss of innocent lives.
Hon. Kamateeka applauded government for creating the Uganda Human Rights Commission, but appealed for the rolling out of human rights desks in all institutions and the security forces.