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ARTICLE 19 calls on East African Community to discuss Uganda's human rights record

(ARTICLE 19/IFEX) - Kampala, 31.05.11 - ARTICLE 19 calls on the East African Community (EAC) to hold a special session on Uganda to discuss the country's ongoing grave human right violations, including frequent attacks on freedom of expression. ARTICLE 19 believes that the seriousness of the current situation requires the East African Legislative Assembly to immediately convene a special session to address attacks on journalists, human rights defenders and the media in the country. During May 2011 alone, at least nine people died in Uganda following brutal attacks by state security agents, and many more were injured, including journalists.

"While it is laudable that the East African Community is in the last stages of developing a Framework on Governance and a Bill of Rights, it is critical that member states hasten their adoption, in order to provide the secretariat and other EAC agencies with necessary tools to safeguard fundamental freedoms in the region," says Dr Agnes Callamard, ARTICLE 19 Executive Director.

"Current attacks on the media and activists cannot be tolerated, and there must be no impunity for the perpetrators of these attacks," continued Dr Callamard.

Similarly, the new EAC Secretary General should sanction the EAC secretariat to convene a meeting of all National Human Rights Institutions in the five member states in order to hold a hearing on the issue of violations committed during the walk-to-work protests. Furthermore, the EAC and African Commission on Human and People's Rights must impose pressure and other measures on Uganda to initiate independent and effective investigations into the ongoing large scale violations of rights, including the right to life and right to freedom of expression.

ARTICLE 19 urges the Ugandan authorities to provide a standing invitation to the UN and the African Commission on Human and People's Rights Special Rapporteurs on freedom of opinion and expression and freedom of assembly, to conduct visits and issue reports on the state of freedom of expression and freedom of assembly in the country.

Journalists under Attack

Journalists' cameras and notebooks were confiscated by security agents as they sought to recently stop peaceful demonstrations in Uganda. An estimated 20 journalists and bloggers are on bail facing different criminal charges and risk attending to their charges while in jail if the recent proposal by the president to amend the constitution to ensure that journalists and other suspects thought to be enemies of the state do not receive bail for six months after arrest. Recently, police raided the offices of a local newspaper; Ggwanga, and arrested four employees allegedly for filming the police and military while brutally breaking a peaceful demonstration and President Yoweri Museveni publicly singled out Al-Jazeera, the BBC, NTV and the Daily Monitor as the "the enemies of Uganda's recovery" for their consistent coverage of State atrocities.

To read ARTICLE 19's submission to the UN Universal Periodic Review, click here

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