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The Uganda Law Society Annual Rule
of Law 2012
High Level Stakeholders’ Meeting Report
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Following the 5
Uganda Law Society Annual Rule of Law Event held on
2012 at the Imperial Royale Hotel, the ULS held a high level stakeholders’ meeting on
the morning of October 11, 2012 at the Sheraton Hotel.
This meeting was organized and held as part of the ULS’ rule of law activities which in
addition to this meeting included four regional radio talk shows and the main Rule of
Law Day Symposium under the theme
“The Rule of Law in Uganda: 50 years after
Independence”; which attracted a large attendance of the ULS membership. The
Symposium featured an excellent keynote address delivered by the Honourable Justice
James Ogoola; three guest presentations delivered by Dr. Miria Matembe, Mr. Peter
Mulira and Mr. Moses Byaruhanga and a plenary session where the legal practitioners,
lawyers, constitutional scholars and other distinguished socio-economic and political
observers and actors in this country openly and candidly discussed the development and
state of the Rule of Law in Uganda and related issues over the past 50 years post
The High Level Stakeholders’ forum was held to draw heads and representatives of select
institutions to a candid but objective round-table discussion on three issues namely
communication and summary of the newly enacted
Prohibition and Prevention of
Torture Act of 2012, comments on the Constitutional right to bail and the law on
Preventive Arrest; and a discussion of the state of Remand Homes in Uganda.
A cross section of the people
that attended the ULS Rule of
Law High Level Stakeholders’
on the morning of
October 11, 2012 at the
Sheraton Hotel- front centre is
hon. Hillary Onek Minster of
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1.1 The High Level Stakeholders’ Meeting
The round-table commenced with opening remarks from the ULS President – Mr. James
Mukasa Sebugenyi; who welcomed the invited guests and highlighted the objectives of
The meeting was attended by the Minster of Internal Affairs, representatives of the Chief
of Military Intelligence, the Head of the Legal Department of the Uganda Peoples’
Defense Forces, as well as members from Uganda Human Rights Commission and other
stakeholders in Civil Society. During this meeting participants were able to collectively
propose solutions to strengthen the rule of law in Uganda.
2.0 ULS President’s Opening and Welcome Remarks
Having welcomed the guests, Mr. Sebugenyi began his official opening remarks by
thanking those present who were mainly civil society actors for honoring the invitation to
this meeting and informed them that in the interest of time, the meeting would begin as
they awaited the arrival of other crucial invitees especially from the State Security agencies
and Government departments without whom the purpose of this meeting would not be
The President Uganda Law
Society poses for a picture
with the Minister of Internal
Affairs Hon. Hillary Onek at
the ULS Rule of Law High
Level Stakeholders’ Meeting
He then briefed those present about the Rule of Law Day event that had been held four
days before, its purpose and what was achieved from this event. He mentioned and
expressed his appreciation that the entire Rule of Law activities including this high level
round table were funded by Konrad Adenauer Stiftung and the Justice, Law and Order
Sector without whose support, these events might have not been practicable.
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President Sebugenyi then mentioned that this being Uganda’s golden jubilee, the timing
of this meeting was opportune since human rights have always had a rich history in
modern Africa, having been one of the leading causes of the anti-colonial struggle in
most of the countries on the African continent in the 1960s and 1970s. He noted that
human rights had played and continue to play a central role in the critiquing and
revolution of repressive regimes in Africa and that civil society organizations and
individuals have continuously used human rights as a rallying call for change. Further,
that the objectives of this meeting therefore were to review the Prohibition and
Prevention of the Torture Act 2012, the right to bail and the state of remand homes in
Uganda and that this meeting was aimed at gathering key stakeholders’ views to further
enrich the work done by their respective institutions.
He reminded the meeting about the ULS’ mandate which among others is to; protect and
assist the public in Uganda in all matters touching, ancillary or incidental to the law; and
to assist the Government and the courts in all matters affecting legislation and the
administration and practice of law in Uganda. He commended the stakeholders present
for the great work done by their respective institutions and mandates at the risk of and
despite being misunderstood and minimized. He added that just like their respective
institutions, the ULS is often mistakenly considered anti government and yet all that it is
doing is guiding the public and State alike in ensuring the Rule of Law as stipulated by the
supreme law of the land, the 1995 Constitution.
He mentioned that the current Executive Council of the ULS had resolved to continue
dealing with rule of law matters in the country by engaging all the relevant actors in a
candid but constructive exchange of ideas; and that this kind of meeting had been held
successfully last year and would continue to be held annually.
Mr. Sebugenyi then set the scene for discussion by making a brief presentation (
to this report) on the selected topics on the agenda and called on members present to
suggest any additional related topics that they found necessary discussion. Mr. Nicholas
Opiyo, an advocate with a passion for human rights issues in Uganda then suggested
adding the issue of Human Rights Defenders to the agenda which was then adopted by
Case for Human Rights Defenders
Mr. Sebugenyi then requested Mr. Opiyo to submit of the issue of human rights
defenders. Mr. Opiyo mentioned that the operation space for CSOs was beginning to be
threatened and limited because CSOs are looked at as a national threat. He added that
whereas the human rights and rule of law needs of the people needed to be
spearheaded, it was becoming apparent that the safety of human rights defenders was
not guaranteed and thus the need to consider defending them too to enable them carry
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on their work in a fear free environment. He alluded to the NGO Amendment Act and
the practices that have accrued with its enactment such as searches by security agents who
storm onto some CSO office premises. He added that it would be wise to make a case
for establishment of guidelines on how these searches are carried out to avoid abuse by
persons who do not respect the CSOs’ agenda
Reactions to President’s communication (Plenary)
A. The Prohibition and Prevention of the Torture Act
In response to the President’s presentation, one participant urged the team to reflect on
the concept of citizenship and how it relates to the law. He mentioned that countries
which appreciate their citizens always make laws with this in mind and the reverse is true.
He noted that laws should be enacted with respect for the citizens of a state and for their
welfare. He invited the meeting to reflect on the actions of the security agencies in
Uganda citing the example of the police who have no qualms releasing teargas canisters
onto members of the general public noting that this is a clear depiction of the esteem/
regard they hold of the public. He highlighted therefore that there are certain
foundational issues that need to be addressed such as the attitude of the security agents
toward the public.
A representative from HURINET also informed the meeting that there are other
institutions aside from state security agencies that are perpetrating torture and cited a
case of the Uganda Revenue Authority officials using torture to obtain information from
one suspected smugglers. He gave the example of a one Mr. Baguma, a businessman who
was tortured by revenue collection officers on allegations of tax evasion. He reportedly
had his tongue wounded with blunt objects and subjected to physical injury as a result of
The Minister of Internal Affairs was urged to provide regulations to the Act as soon as
possible to ensure its smooth implementation and to spearhead quick enactment of the
law on witness protection to safeguard those who report cases of torture.
Well aware that the Minister had initiated the second phase of the Amnesty Act a
participant mentioned that some former abductees had been released and were in the
custody of the 4
Division Headquarters in Northern Uganda. He added that in the
absence of the Amnesty Law the officials at the 4
Division were at loss of how to handle
He further mentioned that there was need to retool or readjust the perception of the
security and armed forces that seem to be fixated on torture as the only means to obtain
information. He therefore recommended sensitizing them on considerations of human
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The Act was commended for inclusion of personal liability for torture. There was
however a concern that this could result in replacement of state liability with personal
liability whereby the State might exploit this provision to shift its liability onto individuals
acting for and employed by the state.
The question was raised about effective implementation of the Act by agencies who
themselves have been reported to use torture for example the police. Who then would
police the police?
On the flip side, a participant from the UPDF in reference to the Act mentioned that it
was necessary to balance practice and theory in the application of this Act. He opined
that whereas the Act decried use of torture or force to obtain information, this was not
realistic in addressing security concerns. He shared the challenges experienced by the
armed forces in apprehending and interrogation of highly sophisticated or hard core
criminals. He added that the security forces were between a rock and a hard place in
ensuring security in the country and were torn on how to protect civilians while
implementing the laws to the letter. He mentioned that the only method that has
seemed useful in obtaining information from these criminals is use of some force. His
question then was how severe is severe treatment?
A participant from the UHRC further informed the meeting of instances where hardcore
criminals that have been tortured approach the Commission for compensation. She
mentioned that the only way the UHRC handles these cases is through mitigated awards.
Participants resolved that the UHRC being an institution of civil nature should carry out
investigations as to whether these criminals were prosecuted or whether the cases have
been dismissed for want of prosecution or whether the charges have been dropped.
Mr. Sebugenyi further recommended that the UHRC initiates a separate meeting for
dialogue between all stakeholders present at this meeting to further discuss the matter of
compensation for hardcore criminals.
There was also mention that since the inclusion of the provision on personal liability,
prison warders are reluctant to apprehend criminals for fear of being accused of torture.
In response to the above a representative from Avocats Sans Frontieres recommended
that each institution through its human rights unit/desk should liaise with the CSOs
present to be guided on how to curb torture and be advised on other tested and proven
means to obtain information.
A participant from the African Centre for treatment and Rehabilitation of Torture Victims
also recommended employment of forensic experts to handle or train officers on
internationally recognized methods of extraction of information from suspects.
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The representative from FHRI recommended ratification of the Optional Protocol to the
Convention against Torture (OPCAT) by Uganda so as to ensure standardization of
handling suspects in an effort to implement the Act.
In his submission the Minister also mentioned that torture is abhorred by Government
and that all responsible for its perpetration should be brought to book. Concerning the
issue raised on the Amnesty law he expressed his support for the provision on denial of
amnesty citing the example of Thomas Kwoyelo who meted gruesome acts on his
victims. He commended the ULS for holding this meeting and further recommended
holding this kind of meeting every six months so as to be more on track and hands on in
dealing with issues and to partner better with government and at the same time not give
criminals the window to commit crime.
The Minister further informed the meeting that as recommended Section 2 which granted
blanket amnesty was scrapped and informed that therefore amnesty would be granted
on a case by case basis. He pledged to liaise with the Amnesty Commission to discuss the
matter of the children (former abductees) that are now in the custody of the 4
headquarters; to devise ways of resettling them into their communities. On this note, a
participant underscored the fact that there is no law on amnesty and therefore even if
these children could be assisted there was no legal framework to guide the process. He
then urged the Minister to move the passing of a new amnesty law so as to make
provision for resettling of these former abductees.
On formulation of regulations for the Act, the Minister mentioned that the Ministry of
Internal Affairs would work closely with the ULS to compare notes and ensure that the
regulations ensure the best standards.
Lastly there was a participant from the UPDF shared that the army is majorly ignorant of
the law and requested the ULS to conduct a legal awareness programme for the Army.
Additionally another participant mentioned that there is also need to sensitize the public
who are also conditioned to accept torture as the only means to punish or obtain
B. The Right to Bail
A complaint was raised about the choice of security agencies to arrest and investigate
rather than investigate and arrest. This has led to subjection of numerous innocent
people to unnecessary suffering in jails only to be told that no evidence was found
against them. It was recommended that investigations be carried out first and then arrests
can be effected when there is evidence of a case to answer.
In response to the above the Minister mentioned that the recommendation on arrest can
only be effected for some crimes and not all. He cited examples of cases such as murder
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or corruption cases; adding that it was necessary to keep suspects in custody to prevent
them from being harmful to society or to prevent interference with investigations in the
case of corruption. He further recommended continued and more active use of
community service to rehabilitate non grave offenders.
Addressing the issue of preventive arrest, the Minister highlighted the issue of politically
motivated crime as opposed to political crime as most refer to it. He mentioned that
whereas preventive arrest was an old British law, Government would continue to
implement it as long as it is still the law.
Participants further complained and noted that the Investigation Services Unit in Kireka is
difficult to access and therefore it is difficult to ensure that suspects are not tortured.
Participants then agreed to notify the Inspector General of Police to adopt a mechanism
similar to that of the Uganda Prisons Service for accessing inmates.
The High Level Stakeholders’ meeting in progress
C. The State of Remand Homes in Uganda
Participants agreed the matter concerning the state of remand homes in Uganda had to
be addressed and that it is about time responsibility was shifted from the Ministry of
Gender, Labour and Social Development.
One participant observed that children cannot be considered criminals but errant and as
such should be treated as child offenders and recommended reform of the law to include
administration of remand homes by the Ministry of Internal Affairs. He further proposed
changing the name remand homes to reformatory homes.
The Uganda Prisons Service in reaction to the ULS’ recommendation to shift the
management and administration of remand homes to the Prisons Service suggested
training of the prison warders to reorient them in handling juveniles.
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Participants inquired about how the army handles child offenders within their
community and the UPDF representative informed that errant children are sent to the
child protection unit designed for correctional purposes for children of army officers.
D. Case for Human Rights Defenders
On shrinking of the NGOs operating space, the Minister mentioned that it was not
entirely accurate that Government was stifling the efforts of NGOs in Uganda. He added
that there are indeed NGOs whose agendas are not in tandem with Government policies
and therefore Government had resolved to manage their operating space.
1. It was resolved that the Minister would provide guidelines on what amounts to
torture and that the Ministry of Internal Affairs would work closely with the ULS
to compare notes and ensure that the regulations ensure the best standards.
2. That the UHRC being an institution of civil nature should carry out investigations
as to whether these criminals were prosecuted or whether the cases have been
dismissed for want of prosecution or whether the charges have been dropped.
3. That the UHRC should initiate a separate meeting for dialogue between all
stakeholders present at this meeting to further discuss the matter of compensation
for hardcore criminals. The Inspector General of Police would be notified and
urged to adopt a mechanism similar to that of the Uganda Prisons Service for
4. Transfer of management and administration of remand homes to the Uganda
Prisons Service would be advocated and that proposals to amend the law to
feature this would be submitted to Government. It was also agreed that the prison
warders would have to be trained to reorient them in proper handling of
5. That institutions present would liaise to structure an initiative to train all security
forces and that the ULS would lead this initiative and make communication with
all stakeholders to solicit ideas to be placed as a concept note to fund this