Prime Minister Theresa May. Photo: Flickr
[Open Letter to UK Prime Minister Theresa May]
09 April 2018
Dear Prime Minister Theresa May,
I am writing to you as host of the 2018 Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting to outline a number of issues which we believe Commonwealth leaders should attend to when they meet in London next week. In line with your publically stated commitment to values and upholding democracy, human rights and the rule of law and the UK’s longstanding and firm commitment to the Commonwealth, we believe that the UK has an important role to play in ensuring that these issues are fully addressed.
The Commonwealth has a proud record of promoting human rights, democracy, good governance and the rule of law. The 2018 Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting in London – which will focus on the theme of How to Boost Trade within the Commonwealth and Towards a Common Future – will, however, present an important test of these commitments. A Common Future cannot be achieved without shared values. This letter outlines a number of critical areas of concern, on political and human rights developments in Uganda.
The failure of the Commonwealth to address continued serious human rights problems in Uganda and many of its member countries in Africa undermines the 1991 Harare Declaration and act as a demonstration of institutional weaknesses in the Commonwealth’s capacity to promote, protect human rights and the rule of law.
Human rights abuses continue to impede any progress towards the establishment of accountable government and the rule of law in Uganda.
The Uganda government has been responsible for serious human rights abuses since 1986 when the present government came to power through violence. These include massacres, unlawful killings, rapes and other crimes of sexual violence, widespread burning and destruction of homes and property by the military in (Luwero) Southern Uganda in the 1980s and Northern and Eastern Uganda in the 1990s, for which no one has yet been brought to justice.
As reported by the Human Rights Watch, https://www.hrw.org/world-report/2017/country-chapters/uganda and Amnesty International, https://www.amnesty.org/en/countries/africa/uganda/report-uganda/
The 2016 elections which returned the present government to office for the fifth term were marred by violence and intimidation, as well as widespread rigging, restriction on freedom of assembly, freedom of expression, media, and extrajudicial killings, absence of accountability, freedom of association, sexual orientation and gender identity.
In the attached report, https://www.hrw.org/world-report/2017/country-chapters/uganda Human Rights Watch 2017 Uganda report has documented numerous cases in 2016 and 2017 in which journalists, human rights activists, opposition party members and peaceful demonstrators have been arrested, detained, ill-treated; innocent members of the public, including a two year old child shot and other forms of intimidation simply because they have criticised government policies. For example, as reported by the Freedom House, https://freedomhouse.org/report/freedom-press/2017/uganda
Several journalists covering the 2016 elections were prevented from exposing government excesses and holding it to account.
The Uganda government must take action on these issues and end the impunity which is protecting those responsible for serious human rights abuses. We urge you to provide Commonwealth leaders with a detailed Human Rights progress report on Uganda, investigation and prosecution of the cases mentioned above.
We appeal to the Commonwealth Heads of Government to use its meetings in the United Kingdom to press for an end to impunity and for institutional human rights reforms in Uganda and Africa in general.
The failure of Commonwealth members to speak out on Human Rights abuses in Uganda leaves the organisation open to accusations of hypocrisy and undermines the effectiveness of Commonwealth actions across member states, especially in Africa.
We hope you will urge all Commonwealth member states, and particularly those in Africa that, a common future cannot be achieved without shared values of protection of democracy, Human Rights and the rule of law.
We wish you a very successful meeting and looks forward to continued dialogue on these important issues.
Human Rights Advocate
Cc The Commonwealth Secretariat, Marlborough House.
Cc The Rt Hon David Lidington CBE MP, Minister for the Cabinet Office and Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster.
Cc The Rt Hon Boris Johnson MP, Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs.
Cc The Rt Hon Penny Mordaunt MP, Secretary of State for International Development.
Cc Harriett Baldwin MP, Minister of State for Africa at the Foreign & Commonwealth Office and Minister of State for International Development.