WE EXIST TO STRENGTHEN CIVIL SOCIETY AND CITIZEN ACTION
AROUND THE WORLD
Civil society and human rights defenders continue to face daunting challenges in Uganda ranging from judicial persecution and intimidation to harassment and threats for the work they do. Restrictive legislation also impedes the activities of civil society as authorities threaten to close down NGOs and media agencies that are critical of the government. CIVICUS spoke to human rights defender Orishaba Bagamuhunda Justus about ongoing judicial harassment against him and the general state of human rights in the country ahead of the election scheduled for 2016.
1. What is the state of human rights in Uganda at the moment?
The state of human rights in Uganda is very bad. There are ongoing threats to freedom of expression, assembly and association which continue to raise serious concerns in Uganda. Security forces such as the police largely enjoy impunity for the torture of people during peaceful protests. The government has banned political pressure groups that call for peaceful change, obstructed opposition rallies, and harassed and intimidated journalists and civil society activists working in the areas of human rights, corruption, oil, land rights and sexual rights.
The notorious NGO Bill, which seeks to limit the civic space for NGOs in Uganda, looms in Parliament. Among other issues, the bill grants the NGO Board broad powers to refuse to register an NGO, to issue permits with instructions that place conditions on the staffing of NGOs and to restrict the employment of foreign nationals. The government has accused NGOs of engaging in “political activism” and in one case suspended an NGO working on sexual rights, arguing that it was “promoting homosexuality.”
During the 30th Session of the UN Human Rights Council, CIVICUS and its partners raised a number of pressing human rights concerns requiring the Council’s attention. The joint and individual oral statements, panel discussions and advocacy letters underscored a broad range of thematic and country specific violations gravely undermining fundamental civil society rights. CIVICUS further provided recommendations to create a safe and enabling operating environment for human rights defenders and ensure effective accountability for persistent human rights violations.
Civil Society is on the frontline responding to the refugee crisis. CIVICUS noted in its 2015 State of Civil Society report that it is civil society that is acting as the first and often more effective responders to crises around the world. CIVICUS spoke to Libby Freeman the founder of grassroots campaign Calais Action (Twitter handle: @Calaisaction), a CSO that is on the frontline assisting refugees arriving in Europe on the response of civil society organisations to the crisis and, what they can do better.
1.What are the urgent needs of refugees and what sort of assistance are you offering?
We are collecting aid donations from around the United Kingdom mostly consisting of sleeping bags, tents, camping equipment, clothes, jackets and food. We are distributing in Calais and went on our first mission to Eastern Europe in September. We are also based in Hungary, and reaching out to refugees in Hungary, Croatia and Serbia. We are also working with NGOs on the ground in Calais to organise volunteer programs and assist in long-term help projects for the refugees.