Eighteen Ugandan civil society organizations are asking the Ugandan Ministry of Foreign Affairs to renew the mandate of the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR) in the country.
The signatories of this letter include, among others, Youth for Green Communities (YFC), Community Transformation Foundation Network (COTFONE) and Fridays for Future Uganda (FFF).
Last February, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Uganda notified the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR) country office that its mandate would not be renewed.
The signatory organizations express their deep concerns about this announcement, as the OHCHR had achieved tremendous milestones in promoting and protecting Ugandans from human rights violations.
While the Government of Uganda justifies its decision on the basis of the country’s own sufficient capacity to monitor rights compliance, the signatories are concerned that the closure of the UN Office will worsen human rights violations in the country.
The Ugandan Human Rights Commission noted in its 2021 annual report to Parliament that arbitrary arrests, detention and torture constitute the most recurrent types of human rights violations in the country.
The situation of human rights defenders working on the negative impacts of oil extraction projects in Uganda has been repeatedly denounced by the OHCHR itself and by the United Nations Special Procedures.
“The shutdown of the United Nations Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR) in Uganda has hindered the efforts to enhance coordination mechanisms for grassroots environmental and human rights organizations and defenders. The threats against human rights defenders have grown but, despite these concerns, there has been a limited response to the issues at hand.”, recounts Kayinga Muddu Yisito, the Coordinator of the Community Transformation Foundation Network (COTFONE).
“The Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR) in Uganda has since its creation laid down baby steps for the respect of human rights in all spheres of political, economic, social, and cultural life. Unless the mandate is renewed and extended, it will be a setback in ensuring all Ugandans, especially those in oil and other local communities, enjoy equal protection of the law”, said Brighton Aryampa, Chief Executive Officer, Youth for Green Communities (YGC).
The signatory organizations therefore request the Ugandan Foreign Affairs Ministry to renew the mandate of the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR) at its fullest extent.