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map courtesy CIA World Factbook; click for enlargement Constitution, Government & Legislation

On March 12, 2001, President Yoweri Museveni was reelected to a second 5-year term under the Constitution and continued to dominate the Government. He has ruled since 1986 through the National Resistance Movement, legislatively reorganized and renamed as "The Movement" in 1995. The Constitution provides for a 295-member unicameral parliament and an autonomous, independently elected president. The number of Members of Parliament (M.P.'s) increased following the implementation of a new law, which increased the number of districts, and an amendment to the Parliamentary Elections Statute, which increased the number of seats reserved for women and labor. On March 12, six candidates competed in the presidential elections, including President Museveni and Kizza Besigye, a former member of the army and presidential advisor. President Museveni won with 69.3 percent of the total votes cast, with 27.3 percent of the votes cast for Besigye. The four other candidates received less than 4 percent of the vote. The institution of Parliament is weak compared with the Executive. The Parliament acted with continued independence and assertiveness during the year; however, this decreased significantly prior to the June parliamentary elections. In June parliamentary elections were held separately for the reserved and directly elected seats; M.P.'s were elected to 5-year terms, and more than 50 percent of those elected were new legislators. Movement supporters remained in control of the legislative branch; however, the number of M.P.'s openly belonging to opposition parties increased to 35 from 12, although the actual number probably is higher since the affiliations of several M.P.'s are unclear.

Source: U.S. Department of State

Courts & Judgments

The highest court in Uganda is the Supreme Court, followed by (in descending order) the Court of Appeal (which also functions as the Constitutional Court for cases of first instance involving constitutional issues), the High Court, the Chief Magistrate's Court, and local council (LC) level 3 (sub-county) courts, LC level 2 (parish) courts, and LC level 1 (village) courts. A minimum of six justices may sit on the Supreme Court and the Court of Appeal or Constitutional Court. In addition there are a few specialized courts that deal with industrial and other matters. The Industrial Court (IC), which arbitrates labor disputes, structurally is parallel to the chief magistrate's court. There also is a military court system.

Although once considered a useful innovation, the LC courts often are thought to be sources of injustice due to such factors as bribery and male dominance in rural areas. The LC courts have authority to settle civil disputes, including land ownership and payment of debts, and criminal cases involving children. These courts, often the only ones available to villagers, frequently exceed their authority by hearing criminal cases, including murder and rape. LC court decisions may be appealed to magistrate's courts, but often there are no records made at the village level, and many defendants are not aware of their right to appeal.

The Constitution provides for an independent judiciary; however, the President has extensive legal powers that influence the exercise of this independence. The President nominates, for the approval of Parliament, members of the Judicial Service Commission, which makes recommendations on appointments to the High Court, the Court of Appeal, and the Supreme Court.

Source: U.S. Department of State

Human Rights

The Ugandan Government's human rights record was poor in 2001, and there continued to be numerous, serious problems. Movement domination of the political process limited the right of citizens to change their government. Security forces used excessive force, at times resulting in death, and committed or failed to prevent some extrajudicial killings of suspected rebels and civilians. Security forces killed and injured several persons while intervening in clashes between supporters of different political candidates. UPDF forces committed fewer abuses in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC). Police, LDU, and DMI forces regularly beat suspects and other persons, often to force confessions. There were a few reports that security forces tortured suspects, primarily during the periods around the elections. Police arrested several persons who later claimed to have been tortured or beaten while in custody. A highly publicized 1999 report on police corruption released to the public in May uncovered numerous serious abuses committed by senior officers and contributed to the arrest of several officers on charges of extortion and abuse of office, which resulted in the appointment of a new chief of police during the year. There were a number of cases in which the Government detained and charged UPDF and LDU members for human rights abuses. Prison conditions remained harsh and life threatening. Members of the security forces sometimes arbitrarily arrested and detained civilians, including opposition politicians and their supporters. Authorities used incommunicado detention. Despite measures to improve the discipline and training of security forces, and despite the punishment of some security force officials guilty of abuses, abuses by the security forces at times resulted in deaths and remained a problem throughout the country. Such abuses increased in the periods prior to the March presidential and June parliamentary elections. Prolonged pretrial detention remained a problem. Poor judicial administration, lack of resources, a large case backlog, and lengthy trial delays circumscribed due process and the right to a fair trial, although some detainees secured their release by accepting amnesty. The UPDF at times infringed on citizens' privacy rights. Female members of the police force no longer are required to obtain permission from the police Inspector General before marrying. The Government generally respected freedom of speech and of the press; however, there were some instances in which the Government infringed on these rights. The Government restricted freedom of assembly and association, and the constitutional restrictions on political activity effectively continued to limit these rights; however, political parties continued operating with fewer restrictions than in previous years. There were some limits on freedom of movement. The Movement Secretariat, supported with government funds, oversaw internal organizational activity, strategy, and mobilization, and actively campaigned for candidates during the presidential and parliamentary elections. The Government continued its Movement political education courses, although they were suspended during elections; the courses are not mandatory. Domestic violence against women, rape, and abuse of children remained serious problems. Discrimination against women and persons with disabilities persisted. The Government worked with nongovernmental organizations (NGO's) to combat the practice of female genital mutilation (FGM), which occurred on a limited basis. There were fewer incidents of violence against ethnic minorities. There were some limits on worker rights. Forced labor, including by children, occurred, and child labor was common, mostly in the informal sector. There were reports of trafficking in persons. Vigilante justice also was a problem.

Source: U.S. Department of State

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