The Ugandan government is unlawfully infringing [press release] on its citizens' rights to freedom of expression and peaceful assembly, according to an Amnesty International (AI) [advocacy website] report [text, PDF] released Tuesday. The report focuses on Uganda's increasing restrictions against freedom of speech, freedom of press and freedom of assembly and the use of force against citizens and journalists who participate in protests or speak out against the government. It points to the International Covenant on Civil Rights (ICCR) [text] and the African Charter on Human and Peoples' Rights [text, PDF], to which Uganda is a party. The ICCR and the charter both proclaim that freedom of speech, press and peaceful assembly should be guaranteed to all citizens. The report states that Uganda has been increasingly encroaching on rights to speech since 2007 and that it has violated its citizens' right to peaceful protests by responding with violence and arrests [JURIST report] to protests beginning in May and April about the rising costs of living:
Government and public officials justify the actions of the police and media regulatory authorities on the basis that freedom of expression and peaceful assembly are not absolute and can be limited in light of public interest. International law is however, very clear that any restrictions on these rights must be exceptional, narrowly defined, only where demonstrably necessary and proportionate for one of the specific purposes recognized as legitimate under international law, and must not place in jeopardy the right itself.The report also expresses concern about the vagueness of Uganda laws, such as the Press and Journalist Act [2010 amendments text, PDF], the Penal Code [text] and the Police Act [text, PDF], which AI believes could be used to continue to stifle freedom of press and assembly.
This is not the first time Uganda has been criticized for infringing on its citizens' rights. In May, UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Navi Pillay called on Uganda to stop using violence [JURIST report] against protesters. Pillay also criticized the government at that time for having arrested opposition leader Kizza Beisgye multiple times. In 2010, Human Rights Watch [advocacy website] condemned Uganda for the use of torture and unlawful arrests [JURIST report] in anti-terrorism efforts. In 2007, a report released by the Uganda Human Rights Commission [official website] showed that 320 Ugandan citizens had filed complaints [JURIST report] against the government for torture.