KAMPALA - OHCHR Uganda commemorated International Human Rights Day in partnership with the Uganda Human Rights Commission (UHRC) in Kampala, in Gulu and in Moroto. In all the three locations, the statement of the High Commissioner for Human Rights was read. The statement was also printed in two of the main national daily newspapers. The events saw active involvement and participation of civil society organizations (CSOs) and State entities (line ministries, police, army, and prison services), media and development partners, among others.
In Gulu, more than 600 people, the majority of whom were women, attended the event, which was officiated by the District Resident Commissioner. In Moroto, the District Resident Commissioner reiterated that the UDHR is for all human beings without discrimination of any kind. He highlighted - as prevalent human rights issues - prolonged pre-trial detention, torture or cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment, women’s rights, climate change, rights to food and rights to health.
OHCHR Head of Office, Robert Kotchani reiterated the High Commissioner’s call for the need to “stand up more energetically for the rights it [UDHR] showed us everyone should have, not just ourselves, but all our fellow human beings – and which we are at constant risk of eroding through our own, and our leaders’ forgetfulness, neglect or wanton disregard.”
In Kampala, the Chief Justice of the Republic of Uganda, who officiated the celebration, emphasized that “As a country, we must see to it that we build strong institutions that will recognize the inherent dignity of each one of us, because if one of us suffers indignity, we ought to rise to the occasion to defend that person.” Other speakers included the Chair of the Parliament Committee on Human Rights, a CSO representative and the Ambassador of Sweden on behalf of development partners.
The Chief Justice also launched the Human Rights Museum, which at present features around 40 art pieces, and was seen as an innovative way to portray human rights from a creative perspective. The winners of the Human Rights Essay (university students), and of the human rights drawing competition (children of 5 to 18 years of age) received awards. The competitions sought to engage young people on human rights and a compendium of a child-friendly version of the UDHR, including the drawings made by the children, will be developed for wide dissemination.
The day’s activities started with a match through the streets of the capital, Kampala. The event attracted several dignitaries among others, human rights defenders, diplomats, Members of Parliament, and security officials. The peaceful match was flagged off by Hon Jovah Kamateeka – the Chairperson of the Human Rights Committee in Parliament.
Other dignitaries included the Chairperson of the national human rights institution – the Uganda Human Rights Commission (UHRC) Med Kaggwa, the Norwegian Ambassador Susan Eckey.
While speaking at the event, the chairperson Uganda Human Rights Commission - Med Kaggwa, basing on the reports by the Commission and other human rights institutions in the country, regretted incidents and reports of human rights violations the country continued to witness.
In the lead to the international human rights day, OHCHR organized two training workshops for approximately fifty human rights defenders from across the country – focusing on engagement with international and regional human rights mechanisms, especially with the UN Special Procedures, and on human rights advocacy – which culminated with an activity to commemorate the International Day of Human Rights Defenders.
At a panel discussion, in which approximately one hundred human rights defenders from Kampala and from across the country had an opportunity to advocate and raise their concerns about the break-ins into NGO premises in Uganda, the representative of the Uganda Police Force announced that Police is going to issue a “Human Rights Policy” to enforce the compliance of human rights standards in all police operations in Uganda.
The discussions focused on the challenges being faced by human rights defenders, and the need of specific protection measures for them.