This policy action brief, prepared by CIVICUS, the global civil society alliance, and the Foundation for Human Rights Initiative (FHRI), examines a range of restrictions on civil society’s fundamental rights recently experienced in Uganda. In particular, these have included a series of break-ins on the premises of civil society organisations (CSOs), in which CSO information has been stolen; attacks on the media, which have included physical attacks on journalists and the closure of private radio stations; the introduction of restrictive legislation, including on CSO operations, the media and the freedom of assembly; and increased restriction of peaceful assemblies, including through the use of excessive force to break up protests.
These restrictions occur most when CSOs and human rights defenders attempt to articulate independent viewpoints and expose government failures and malpractices. They have the effect of making it harder for civil society to play its proper roles and may cause CSOs and journalists to self-censor, something further encouraged by impunity enjoyed by security forces. Because of this, the restrictions are undermining gains made in recent decades in Uganda’s democratic progress and development efforts. It is in recognition of these restrictions that the CIVICUS Monitor, an online platform that evaluates civic space - the level of protection of the core civil society freedoms of association, assembly and expression - in countries around the world, assesses Uganda as repressed.
This policy action brief is informed by a series of engagements between CIVICUS and CSOs in Uganda, including joint UPR submissions, a solidarity mission that took place between 17 and 20 July 2016 in Uganda, side events at the United Nations Human Rights Council on human rights issues affecting Uganda and alerts calling on the Ugandan authorities to respect the rights of CSOs and human rights defenders. Following the official adoption of Uganda’s UPR recommendations in March 2017, Ugandan civil society and UPR Info will organise a multi-stakeholder dialogue to engage in constructive dialogue with the government on the implementation of the recommendations, and to construct a joint national implementation matrix.