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Activists take on ‘bad laws’ in court

Human rights activists are planning to challenge laws that are deemed to violate basic rights in the Constitutional court.

The activists say laws such as the Public Order Management Act (2013), Penal Code Act (cap 120) and the Criminal Procedure Act (cap 116), among others, are frequently used by the police to deny citizens the full enjoyment of fundamental rights and freedoms.

“Uganda still bears a number of archaic, draconian legislations that no longer suit developments in the human rights arena,” said Mohammed Ndifuna, chief executive officer of the Human Rights Network Uganda (HURINET-Uganda), at a news conference last week.

On December 10, HURINET, Development Network of Indigenous Voluntary Associations (DENIVA), and the Uganda Association of Women Lawyers (Fida-Uganda) filed a joint petition together with Butambala MP Muhammad Muwanga Kivumbi and the retired assistant bishop of Kampala, Dr Zac Niringiye, challenging the constitutionality of the Public Order Management Act.

The petition specifically challenges sections 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9, 10, 12 and 13 of the act, which they contend place burdensome restrictions on the enjoyment of fundamental rights. The same provisions grant the police broad authority to use force to disperse assemblies and impose criminal liabilities on organisers and participants of assemblies.

The activists want court to declare the law inconsistent with the constitution and in contravention of Uganda’s international legal obligations.

“The action of the respondent in enacting and assenting to Section 5 and 6 of the Public Order Management Act, which sections are substantially and materially similar to Section 32(2) of the Police Act that was declared unconstitutional by the Constitutional court in the constitutional petition number 9 of 2005 – Muwanga Kivumbi Vs Attorney General – is inconsistent with and in contravention of Article 92 of the Constitution,” the petition reads in part.

The petition was served on the Attorney General on January 6. The Public Order Management bill was controversially passed on August 6, 2013 and assented to on October 2.

“Our calls were ignored; we engaged Parliament at all fronts, giving an analysis of the likely implications of the bill, we gave them 12 reasons why the bill needed an amendment but all that was ignored,” said HURINET’s Patrick Tumwine.

Tumwine added that the activists view the law as disabling, restrictive and undermining the Constitution. On Thursday, the police invoked the same law to block a planned stakeholders’ consultative meeting organized by Kampala Lord Mayor Erias Lukwago at the headquarters of the opposition party Jeema in Mengo, Kampala.

Several opposition leaders, notably embattled Kampala Lord Mayor Erias Lukwago, former FDC President Dr Kizza Besigye and Lubaga North MP Moses Kasibante were held till late Thursday evening and released without charge.

Anti-Gay Bill

The human rights groups are also planning to file other petitions against the recently passed Anti-Homosexuality Bill.

“The bill curtails constitutionally protected rights to privacy, family life and equality and hugely violates the rights to freedom of association and expression,” Ndifuna said.

He added that the recently-passed but yet-to-be-assented-to bill directly discriminates against not only sexual minorities but also persons who do not [report] turn them in. This directly violates the provisions of Article 21 of the Constitution, Ndifuna said.

Besides, the activists also warned against the passing of the National Bio-technology and Bio-safety Bill (GMOs) which they say does not cater for adequate participation of Ugandans in decision-making.

“Given that the goal of GMO technology is to create novel organisms, many of the risks associated with such activities will be complex, indefinable and difficult to anticipate with any degree of precision,” Ndifuna said.

sadabkk@observer.ug

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