(Kampala/January 11,2021) The National Coalition of Human Rights Defenders -Uganda with its membership of close to 150 CSO organisations countrywide expresses concern to the rising cases of human rights violations and abuses as we head to the 2021 polling days on the 12th,14th and 20th January,2021 and wish to retaliate the important need of all authorities to provide an enabling environment for human rights defenders to undertake their noble duty of monitoring human rights and observing elections.
The electoral calendar released in late 2019 by the Electoral Commission and further revised in mid-2020 with the emergence of the COVID-19 pandemic. Since the electoral campaigns started, there has been a blunt attack on fundamental freedoms by particularly elements within the security agencies targeting the general citizenry but, in some situations, prominent cases human rights defenders (HRDs) especially journalists.
While we head to polling day for the presidential and parliamentary elections on 14th January, we are concerned particularly by the rhetoric of leaders/figures at the helm of the security agencies. We are drawn aback by the comments of the IGP Martin Okoth Ochola that pre-supposes continued clampdown through beatings specific to the media and journalists covering elections and electoral scenes. This is a direct afront on fundamental rights to expression, freedom from torture, cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment and ferments fear and intimidation within the media fraternity.
We are equally concerned with the delays and unclear circumstances within which CSOs and HRDs interested in observing elections have been forced to deal with whilst processing their accreditation with the Electoral Commission. We urge the Electoral Commission to expedite accreditation of observers and relax the rather cumbersome process to enable meaningful participation of electoral observers in the election as envisaged under article 38 of the 1995 Constitution.
“Human Rights Defenders play a crucial role in monitoring, documenting and reporting on issues that positively or negatively affect the realization of human rights in society. Their ability to carry out this noble duty demands skills building and knowledge acquisition, in addition to having equipment to facilitate such work such as smart phones to record and capture action scenes to back up their reports as credible, states Robert R Kirenga, Executive Director NCHRD, we are proud to empower grassroot HRDs with such necessary support to be applied on the frontline of electoral activities in the midst of challenging circumstances for them.”
We therefore urge the authorities to ensure that Human Rights Defenders are accorded the leverage and space to play their cardinal role in the observation and monitoring observance of human rights on polling day.
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