12 September, 2022
Capacity Building Support to Human Rights Committees in Prisons of Karamoja Region

Karamoja, 31 August – 1 September 2022:  OHCHR, together with Uganda Human Rights Commission (UHRC), conducted training on human rights standards for 32 officers (seven women and 25 men) working for Uganda Prison Service (UPS) across Karamoja region.

In the opening session Mr. Yusuke Hara (OHCHR, Team Leader for Moroto Field Office) noted that recent monitoring activities identified several human rights related challenges in the region’s prisons and that the present training provided an opportunity to build capacity to address these issues. Mr. Piramoe Paul (UHRC, Regional Human Rights Officer) stressed the importance of human rights in the work of the prison officers emphasising that “the real work of protecting and promoting human rights is done by you [prison officers]”. Finally, Mr. Lenga George Godwin (UPS, Regional Prison Commander) highlighted how the training would remind the officers of the duty to observe, protect, and fulfil human rights, urging participants to be attentive and receptive to the training provided.

The joint team made several presentations throughout the training, introducing a range of human rights concepts, principles, and standards. The duties and expectations borne by prison officers were outlined, both in relation to the Code of Conduct as stipulated in the Prison Regulations 2012 and in the Code of Conduct for Law Enforcement Officials 1979. The legal framework for human rights was discussed, including the international ICCPR, CAT, and Nelson Mandela Rules, as well as the national Human Rights (Enforcement) Act 2019, Domestic Violence Act 2012, Prevention and Prohibition of Torture Act 2012, and chapter four of the 1995 Constitution.

The prison officers were invited to share experiences of human rights related challenges in their work. Several aspects were brought up with examples including hostile inmates who did not respect the authority of prison officers, sometimes leading to incidents of violence. Other examples included labour related accidents and dimensions of health and safety. It was also noted that some situations required rapid decision-making and high emotional intelligence to mitigate risks and de-escalate hostility whilst at the same time ensuring that the rights of the inmates were upheld. A concrete example was related to prisoners escaping and the challenge of ensuring their immediate and safe re-capture whilst simultaneously ensuring humane treatment and respect for human rights.

Participants work together to identify human rights issues in a case study.
Participants work together to identify human rights issues in a case study.

To further engage with the concepts, instruments, and provisions presented, the prison officers were given a case study to identify human rights issues and applicable laws and standards. The participants brought up aspects related to proper file management, the right to contact with family, friends, and lawyers, access to information and notification, and shared ideas on best practices for observing, protecting, and fulfilling human rights in similar situations.

Encouraged to look forward, the participants were tasked to design a work plan for the remainder of the year to establish a plan on how to disseminate and realise the insights gathered at their respective prison. The prison officers stated that they will engage in sensitisation activities of both staff and inmates, as well as follow up on progress further ahead. It was also suggested that inmates should be further involved in the human rights work, for example by forming a Human Rights Committee for inmates, in addition to the one for staff.