Tuesday, March 5News That Matters

Uganda intimidates to Close UN Human Rights Office.

The Ugandan government should immediately reverse its decision to end the mandate of the United Nations Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR) in Uganda, Human Rights Watch said today. On February 6, 2023, Uganda’s Foreign Affairs Ministry informed the OHCHR Uganda country office that it would not renew its agreement to host the UN entity beyond its current three-year term ending in February 2023.
Concerned UN member countries should press the Ugandan government to reverse its decision to close the UN office and ensure that nongovernmental organizations have a safe environment to work in.
“Shutting down the UN human rights office is just the latest government action to stifle those working to promote respect for human rights in Uganda,” said Oryem Nyeko, Uganda researcher at Human Rights Watch. “Instead of removing another critical voice from the human rights ecosystem, Ugandan authorities should create an enabling environment for rights advocates to work.”
The then-UN Commission on Human Rights established the UN human rights office with government backing in Uganda in 2005 to focus on human rights in conflict-affected northern and northeastern Uganda. In 2009, its mandate was extended to cover the entire country and all human rights issues, including: training human rights defenders and security officials; monitoring human rights abuses; and facilitating the follow-up of recommendations from UN human rights mechanisms, through close currently hosts the largest stand-alone UN human rights office in Africa.
In its letter to the UN Human Rights office in Kampala, the Foreign Affairs Ministry said it made the decision because of the government’s own “commitment to the protection and promotion of human rights,” and the existence of “strong National Human Rights Institutions and a vibrant civil society.” The ministry said it would continue its “cooperation with the OHCHR headquarters either directly or through its permanent mission in Geneva.”
Human Rights Watch wrote by email to Vincent Bagiire, the Ministry’s permanent secretary, with questions about the government’s position. Bagiire declined to answer the detailed queries and instead referred Human Rights Watch to the ministry’s “communication to OHCHR that has been widely disseminated.”partnerships with the national human rights body, the Uganda Human Rights Commission.

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