Kampala: Launch of a National Coalition for Human Rights Defenders

Press Release

Kampala: Launch of a National Coalition for Human Rights Defenders

 

The East and Horn of Africa Human Rights Defenders Project is pleased to announce the launch of the Ugandan National Coalition for Human Rights Defenders today, Tuesday 11th June 2013.

Six leading human rights organisations, East and Horn of Africa Human Rights Defenders Project (EHAHRDP), Human Rights Network Uganda (HURINET-U), Human Rights Centre Uganda (HRC-U), Avocats Sans Frontiers (ASF), NGO Forum (NGOF), and Foundation for Human Rights Initiative (FHRI) today launch an initiative to bring human rights defenders (HRDs) together under one national coalition to enhance their protection and co-ordination.

The Coalition will be formally launched today as part of a week-long workshop taking place in Speke Resort, Kampala. Over 50 grassroots HRDs from across Uganda will participate in this week’s workshop, including many HRDs working in the oil and extractives industry, members of the LGBTI community, journalists, and HRDs working on behalf of ethnic and indigenous minorities.

The establishment of the Coalition has been informed by a recent study undertaken by HRC-U entitled, “The Quest for an enabling working environment for human rights defenders in Uganda 2012.” This report highlighted the situation of HRDs in Uganda and recommended the establishment of a national coalition of HRDs in Uganda. The study identified the need to strengthen the capacity of civil society organisations, through training on research strategies, documentation, protection and security issues.

The UN Special Rapporteur on the situation of HRDs and Executive Director HRC-U, Mrs. Margaret Sekaggya, will deliver the workshop’s keynote speech on the situation of human rights defenders. “Human rights defenders in Uganda continue to be subjected to a wide range of human rights violations including harassment, intimidation, banning or restriction of their activities, arbitrary detention on fabricated charges, torture, ill-treatment, stigmatization and extra-judicial killings, while exercising their right to defend the human rights of others”, Mrs. Sekaggya said today. “We urge the Ugandan government to take all necessary steps to improve the protection of human rights defenders”.

Civil society Organisations (CSOs) working on the promotion and protection of human rights, guaranteed under the Ugandan Constitution, have for long nursed the idea of collaborating at the national level. HRDs in Uganda continue to face extraordinary challenges from both state and non-state actors. Attacks and challenges have come from a wide range of sources, including the use of domestic laws to clamp down on work of HRDs and restrict their operating environment, direct attacks, and threats of closure among others. Without significant efforts to address these problems at the national level, regional and international efforts are inherently limited in their scope and long-term outcome.

“In light of an increasingly challenging operating environment for HRDs, there is an urgent need to create mechanisms that will ensure better protection and strengthen solidarity and response among HRDs in regard to safety and security issues,” said the Executive Director of HURINET, Mr. Mohammed Ndifuna. “Therefore we call upon the different stakeholders, both state and non-state actors, to support the initiative HRDs have put in place and especially the coalition on HRDs.”

HRDs in Uganda have traditionally depended on specific service providers for interventions, such as litigation, negotiation, capacity building, and mediation among others. Today’s launch of the Ugandan National Coalition for Human Rights Defenders represents an effort to promote coordination between organisations, to avoid duplication of activities, and to share resources and expertise.

“At this challenging time for human rights defenders in Uganda, it is vital that civil society organisations collaborate effectively, and share their expertise. We are urging the Ugandan government to ensure that the principles contained in the UN Declaration on Human Rights Defenders adopted in 1998 are fully respected and incorporated into the national laws and mechanisms”, said EHAHRDP Executive Director, Mr. Hassan Shire Sheikh.  “Ugandan defenders deserve no less than the full protection of their governments and the wider international community.”

The Coalition is delighted to announce that the workshop will be officially opened by His Excellency Dr.Roberto Ridolfi, the European Union Ambassador to Uganda, at Speke Resort Munyonyo.

For more information, please contact:

Mr. Hassan Shire Sheikh, Executive Director on +256 772 753 753, [email protected] or [email protected]

Mr. Edward Serucaca, Convenor- Ugandan Human Rights Defenders Coalition on + 256 787 422 290 or [email protected]