UPR of Uganda: allegations of torture by security forces, and criminalisation of same-sex relations
Wednesday, 19 October 2011 14:46


On 10 October 2011, the Working Group on the UPR reviewed the human rights record of Uganda, and criticised the Government for the criminalisation of the LGBTI community, the use of the death penalty, and the alleged use of torture by the police.  The Ugandan head of delegation Mr Henry Okello-Oryem, Minister of State for International Affairs, stated that the culture and traditions of the country legitimise the existence of provisions criminalising same-sex relations and allowing capital punishment.


Mr Okello-Oryem opened the session with a review of the national report. He outlined the rights guaranteed to all of the minorities protected by the Constitution: women, children, and the elderly, all viewed as a priority by the Government. Uganda currently has 112 female members of Parliament, 6063 registered civil society organisations, and has had free and regular multiparty elections every five years since 1996. The Minister also addressed the controversies surrounding the death penalty and sexual orientation in Uganda. On the matter of sexual orientation, Mr Okello-Oryem stated that same-sex couples are criminalised to protect and respect the social and cultural context of the country. Same-sex relations are considered to be damaging national culture and obstructing the correct education of  children. The death penalty, on the other hand, is recommended as punishment only for the most serious offences, but has not been implemented since 1999. Yet, it is used only at the discretion of judge. According to the Minister, a popular referendum supported the existence of the death penalty in the Constitution.


African states present commended Uganda for the improvements in maternal health, the support provided to HIV/AIDS patients, the outlining of free and basic compulsory education as a developmental priority, and the general efforts made in promoting and protecting human rights. China and other developing nations invited the international community to continue supporting these efforts. Zimbabwe and Bangladesh recommended to protect children and youth from ‘anti-cultural practices’, referring to same-sex relations. Specific recommendations, made mostly by European states, the Russian Federation, Canada, and the USA, included:

  • Calls to sign and ratify the Convention Against Torture, the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination Against Women, the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, the International Convention for the Protection of All Persons from Enforced Disappearance, and the Convention relating to the Status of Stateless Persons.
  • Calls to establish an independent central mechanism to review and implement human rights recommendations coming from international bodies.
  • Recommendation to work towards a moratorium as a step towards the ultimate abolition of the death penalty.
  • Calls to criminalise the use of torture by security forces, and begin judicial investigations on the abuse of force and arbitrary arrest by the police.
  • Calls to repeal legislation criminalising same-sex relations.
  • Requests that the State begin an educational campaign against female genital mutilations and ritual killings of children.

In his response to the delegates, Mr Okello-Oryem addressed the US directly on the alleged use of ‘safe houses’ to torture prisoners and on the registration of NGOs. In relation to the first point, he stated that there is no such thing as ‘safe houses’, but that on the other hand Guantanamo Bay exists. As far as NGO registration is concerned, he responded that this is a matter of procedure, not a means to control NGO activity.


Of the 171 recommendations made, Uganda accepted 110, rejected 19, and left 42 pending for review by the 19th session of the Human Rights Council. The delegation stated that those recommendations it was not immediately able to accept, or that it has rejected, have economic implications or conflict with the national policy. Furthermore, Uganda made the following voluntary pledges:

  • Develop a national action plan on human rights.
  • Carry out an annual review of its human rights situation and report to the Parliament as appropriate.
  • Mainstream human rights issues and all aspects of good governance.
  • Establish a human rights desk under the Minister of Justice and Constitutional Affairs to coordinate human rights issues at a national level.
  • Incorporate human rights education in the school curriculum.
Last Updated on Wednesday, 19 October 2011 14:47
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