Effective partnerships in responding to human rights violations and GBV during covid19 pandemic

Gulu 30 September 2020: The Resident District Gulu City in northern Uganda Major Okot Santos Lapolo has hailed the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR)’s efforts in Uganda. Major Okot was speaking at a two-day training workshop of 23 officers (22 males and 1 female) on basic human rights and gender-based violence in the context of elections.

“The training is the right thing and comes at the right time. We must commend the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights in Uganda for the continued support. The police perform the most difficult tasks including maintaining law and order during elections, which has been compounded by the Covid-19 pandemic” He said. He urged them to be non-political and not engage in selective management of elections and to desist from excessive use of force.

The overall objective of the training was to strengthen the knowledge of the officers on existing laws and policies including electoral guidelines and to ensure consistent and fair treatment of all persons during the electoral period. The training is one of several activities to be rolled out to in seven other districts in northern Uganda.

While speaking at the same training, the Deputy Regional Police Commander Aswa River Region, Superintendent of Police Kaija Stephen urged the police officers to take seriously the knowledge received so that they do not fall victims of election-related human rights violations. He emphasized that individual responsibility is real, reinforced by the Human Rights Enforcement Act of Uganda.

OHCHR Representative in Uganda, Mr Robert Ayeda Kotchani expressed appreciation to the leadership of Gulu City as well as the Regional Police Commander for their role and commitment in the promotion and protection of all human rights for everyone. He stressed that this training was organised following a request by the Gulu Regional Police Commander. It is expected that similar training will be rolled out in a number of locations in the Acholi region including; Amuru, Nwoya and Omoro for West Acholi as well as Kitgum, Lamwo, Pader and Agago in East Acholi and OHCHR will work with other partners so that more support is got towards the upcoming training.

He emphasized the critical role of the police and the importance of constructive discussions on the issues that may arise, including human rights violations, electoral-based gender violence and how to handle them in a professional and ethical manner.

He added that “this is in a bid to ensure that the elections are conducted in a free, fair and democratic environment. the training is to strengthen your knowledge as police officers on existing laws and policies including electoral guidelines and others, to ensure consistent and fair treatment of all persons during the electoral process especially in the new normal which has necessitated scientific elections and also in the context of the on-going COVID-19 pandemic, which puts additional constraints on everyone.”

Mr Kotchani commended the Uganda Human Rights Commission (UHRC), the Uganda Police Force (UPF) and UN Women on the effective partnership and coordination of the response to allegations of human rights violations; especially Gender-based Violence during the COVID-19 pandemic.