‘Uganda should not be on UN rights body’

Sunday May 16 2010

By Owen Kibenge

Uganda’s election to the Human Rights Council has attracted sneers from a broad range of human rights advocates. The United Nations General Assembly last Thursday cast 164 votes in favour of Uganda, despite a vigorous campaign by human rights activists over draft laws they consider oppressive.

“Uganda’s election to the Human Rights Council makes a mockery of the institution. The country’s press freedom record alone should have been enough to dismiss their application,” said Tom Rhodes, the Africa Programme Coordinator of the Committee to Protect Journalists.

The Human Rights Council is an intergovernmental body within the UN system comprising 47 states responsible for strengthening the promotion and protection of human rights around the globe. A complaints procedure allows individuals and organisations to report cases to the council. Uganda was elected together with 14 other countries that include Libya and Angola. During the next three years, Uganda will enforce global adherence as specified in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, which, for example, calls for unfettered enjoyment of the right to free speech, assembly and protection of sexual minorities.

Human Rights Watch has now launched another campaign calling on Uganda to withdraw some draft laws currently before Parliament, such as a pending anti-gay law.
Mr John Nagenda, the presidential advisor on media, said he had lost patience with Uganda’s critics. “Nobody is saying we are perfect, and we don’t pretend to be,” Mr Nagenda said.