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The Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR) was established in Uganda in July 2005 with offices in Gulu, Kitgum, Kotido, Lira, Pader, Soroti, and the Head Office in Kampala. The initial mandate of the Office focused on the human rights situation in the conflict-affected areas of Northern and North-Eastern Uganda. In 2009, the OHCHR mandate in Uganda was extended to cover the entire country and all human rights issues. The sub-offices in Lira, Pader, and Soroti were closed in 2011, later to be followed by Kitgum and Kotido in 2017. The mandate of the office in Uganda ended in February 2023, and the sub-field offices in Gulu and Moroto closed in June, followed by the final closure and exit in Kampala in August 2023.
Type of engagement
2005, and closing in August 2023
Head office in Kampala and two offices in Moroto and Gulu
Number of staff
As of March 2023, OHCHR Uganda had 45 staff (36 nationals, 9 internationals).
Annual budget needs
Partners: OHCHR Uganda’s partners include: UN agencies, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Ministry of Gender, Labour and Social Development, Ministry of Health, Ministry of Justice and Constitutional Affairs, Ministry of Justice and Constitutional Affairs, Ministry of Local Government, Judiciary, Uganda Human Rights Commission, Uganda Law Reform Commission, Uganda Peoples’ Defence Forces, Uganda Police Force, Uganda Prisons Service, Uganda Bureau of Statistics, Office of the Prime Minister, Parliament of Uganda, Chieftaincy of Military Intelligence, Equal Opportunities Commission, Human Rights Committee of Parliament, Human Rights Committee of Parliament, Inter-Ministerial Committee on Human Rights, Internal security Organisation, Journalists Associations and Networks, National Council for Persons with Disabilities, National Planning Authority, Wakiso Human Rights Committee, Parliament OF Uganda, Ministry of Health, Joint UN Program of Support on AIDS in Uganda (JUPSA) / UNAIDS Budget, AIDS Development Partners Group (ADPG), Uganda AIDS Commission (UAC), District Local Governments, (DLGs), Albinism Umbrella, National Union of Disabled Persons in Uganda (NUDIPU), Uganda Albinism Association (UAA), Luwero Albinism Association, DefendDefenders, Penal Reform International, Justice Defenders, Avocats Sans Frontières, International Centre for Transitional Justice, Refugee Law Project, and Legal Aid Service Providers Network, National Coalition of Human Rights Defenders, Women Human Rights Defender’s Network, Foundation for Human Rights Initiative.
Donors: Sweden, Norway, Belgium.
The mandate of OHCHR Uganda focuses on providing advice and assistance to the Government of Uganda on the formulation and implementation of policies, programmes and measures for the promotion and protection of human rights; strengthening the capacity of human rights institutions and civil society organisations (CSOs) to promote and protect human rights; supporting the implementation of international human rights norms, standards, and outcomes of the human rights mechanisms/bodies and to monitor the human rights situation in Uganda, in partnership with the Uganda Human Rights Commission (UHRC).
OHCHR Uganda focuses on the following five thematic areas:
1. Strengthening rule of law and accountability for human rights violations
Over the years, OHCHR Uganda supported State and non-state partners in efforts to combat impunity and strengthen the rule of law and accountability for human rights violations in Uganda. Areas of attention included transitional justice; campaigns against the death penalty; popularization of international, regional, and national human rights instruments; human rights capacity building and technical support for the justice, law and order sector and other actors in the administration of justice; and review of bills, laws, guidelines, and other legal and policy instruments.
The office contributed to the development and dissemination of the Prohibition and Prevention of Torture Act, 2012, and its regulations, as well as the development of the Victim Guidelines to support the International Crimes Division in the prosecution of war crimes. In 2020, the office supported the Judicial Service Commission to develop the 4th edition of the Citizens’ Handbook on Law and Administration of Justice in Uganda, thereby increasing awareness of the justice system among the citizens of Uganda. To further inform the citizens of Uganda, the Office supported the Uganda Law Reform Commission to print and disseminate the Constitutional Bill of Rights in Lusoga, a regional language spoken by over 3 million people in Eastern Uganda.
Following the enactment of the Human Rights Enforcement Act, 2019, the office increased the knowledge of State and non-state actors and built their capacity to implement the Act. A simplified version of the Act was developed for distribution to relevant actors, including the judiciary and executive actors as well as lawyers and legal aid providers. These initiatives to popularize the HREA have had a positive impact as judges are increasingly invoking the HREA in their decisions. For example, on 8 July 2022, the Court of Appeal issued its decision in the case of Paul Wanyoto Mugoya vs Sergeant Oumo Joshua and the Attorney General (Civil Appeal No.91 of 2021), in which it set a precedent for the High Court to nullify criminal prosecutions tainted with violations of non-derogable human rights. This decision also set a significant precedent to the effect that an allegation of torture can be proven through other evidence, where it is not supported by a medical report. Furthermore, on 12 September 2022, the High Court (Anti-Corruption Division) in the case of Robert Asiimwe Akanga & Kalema Stevens Vs AG, DPP & URA (Misc. Appl. No. 007 and No. 8 of 2022) handed down another significant decision that nullified the conviction of the applicants, because they were tortured during their detention and trial, citing provisions of the HREA for his decision.
In support of the constitutional mandate of the UHRC to monitor the Government’s compliance with international human rights obligations, the Office provided technical support to legislative and policy development processes with the view of enhancing the compliance of proposed legal instruments.
Through these efforts, OHCHR encouraged the inclusion and empowerment of all people in Uganda. To ensure increased inclusion and empowerment of everyone, including grassroots organisations and hard-to-reach communities, to enable them to participate in decision-making and claim their rights, OHCHR translated key information, laws, and policies into accessible formats. Examples include transcribing the Constitution of Uganda into braille and broadcasting information about the EOC and its mandate in eight different languages.
In an effort to contribute to the mainstreaming of human rights into legislative work, OHCHR successfully advocated for the creation of a Human Rights Committee in Parliament, which was established in June 2012. Between 2012 and 2023, OHCHR provided capacity building and technical advice to the Human Rights Committee of Parliament to integrate human rights standards into lawmaking and developed a checklist of human rights to enable Parliamentarians to systematically ensure compliance of all laws and policies with Uganda’s international and regional human rights obligations. The checklist was adopted by Parliament in 2017.
The Karamoja Regional Protection Meeting (KRPM) was established by UN OCHA in 2008. OHCHR took over in 2010 following the closing of OCHA’s office in Uganda and in March 2023, it commemorated the 50th gathering of the quarterly KRPM with OHCHR’s support. Participants at the KRPM usually include representatives from the UHRC, justice institutions, district and local government officials, the UPDF, UPF and UPS, UN Agencies and human rights organisations. Through this platform, OHCHR has supported in a consistent manner the monitoring and reporting of individual cases of human rights violations in Karamoja, which are discussed with relevant State authorities at the KRPM and concrete follow-up actions agreed upon. The KRPM is a safe and convivial space for dialogue on human rights concerns and efforts by all relevant regional stakeholders to seek increased accountability for human rights violations.
Between KRPM meetings, OHCHR and the UHRC conduct follow-up actions such as joint monitoring, investigations and advocacy with security forces, judicial authorities, victims and CSOs. The release of at least 20,000 individuals arbitrarily arrested and detained in military and police detention facilities was secured partly thanks to the collaboration between OHCHR, UHRC, CSOs, law enforcement officers and judicial authorities participating in the KRPM.
In the northern region, OHCHR established three Human Rights Protection Networks in Lango, Acholi and West Nile in 2021 to improve accountability and redress for human rights violations. The networks’ quarterly meetings have strengthened coordination between OHCHR, UHRC, security officers and CSOs, thereby facilitating access for monitoring detention facilities.
“The Karamoja Regional Protection Meeting has helped us to know that professionalism in law enforcement can only be achieved if we truly respect human rights in carrying out our duties” Moses Akena, Assistant Superintendent of Police in Kotido in the Karamoja region.
2. Enhancing equality and countering discrimination
In the spirit of leaving no-one behind, OHCHR contributed to combating inequality and discrimination by advancing the rights of some of the most vulnerable groups in Uganda. Through advocacy and support to government MDAs and CSOs, important progress was made to improve the life, security, and opportunities of marginalized persons.
OHCHR supported government bodies, including the Ministry of Gender, Labour, and Social Development, the UHRC, and the EOC to develop reports, progressive laws and policies targeting discrimination. As one example out of many, OHCHR, together with EOC, produced the Legal Analysis Report on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities in Uganda in 2019. The findings and recommendations in the report helped address gaps in the Persons with Disabilities Bill, 2019, which was subsequently amended before being signed into law. Through achievements like this, OHCHR contributed to making some dimensions of Uganda’s legal framework more conducive to equality and non-discrimination.
Over the years, OHCHR has joined hands with partners to raise awareness on matters of equality and discrimination through several events and publications. Together with partners, the office has commemorated international human rights days, day for persons with disabilities, 16 days of activism, day for persons with albinism, international women’s rights' days, international day in support of victims of torture and many more. Through events such as the 2022 SGBV symposium, OHCHR and partners brought stakeholders together to discuss ways forward to combat discrimination and violence against women. OHCHR raised awareness and knowledge about persons with albinism by addressing myths and misconceptions about them by supporting the development and distribution of a publication entitled “Just Like You!”
By conducting training and providing technical support to partners, OHCHR ensured that equality and non-discrimination were integrated into various sectors. In the response to HIV/AIDS for example, where a wide range of Government and non-government stakeholders collaborated, OHCHR continually advocated to ensure equal access to services for all, particularly highlighting the needs of key populations.
In 2022, OHCHR supported UHRC to monitor the human rights situation of the Benet indigenous community in Bukwo and Kween Districts in the Mt. Elgon Region, following alleged human rights violations by the Uganda Wildlife Authority (UWA). OHCHR and UHRC drafted a report of the monitoring mission with key recommendations, including a possible high-level engagement with the community and responsible authorities such as UPDF and UWA in 2023 to be led by UHRC.
In 2023, OHCHR supported UHRC and United Organisation for Batwa Development in Uganda to organise community baraza trainings on human rights and land ownership as applicable to indigenous peoples. The training targeted members of the Batwa community and local government authorities from Bukimbiri, Murora Mupaka Town Council and Busanza.
In March 2023, in collaboration with headquarters, OHCHR Uganda led the drafting of a comprehensive and analytical submission to Parliament highlighting the gaps and inconsistencies between the Anti-Homosexuality Bill 2023 and Uganda’s international and regional human rights obligations. The Bill was found to discriminate against LGBTQI people and Parliament was encouraged not to pass it. The submission was endorsed by the UN system in Uganda and delivered to Parliament in advance of the debate in the house.
In partnership with United Nations Department for Economic and Social Affairs (UNDESA) and UN Women, we provided technical support to the Ministry of Gender, Labour and Social Development to develop a National Affirmative Action Programme for Indigenous Peoples (NAAPIP). In May 2023, OHCHR supported MGLSD to organise a national workshop for the validation of the NAAPIP. The validation will inform the finalisation of the NAAPIP before it is adopted and launched.
OHCHR is a member of and provides technical human rights advice to the Joint UN Program of Support on AIDS in Uganda (JUPSA) / UNAIDS Budget, Result and Accountability Framework (UBRAF) and AIDS Development Partners Group and Health Development Working Group, among others. From 2021 to 2023, OHCHR provided technical support to the President’s Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief (PEPFAR) Country Operational Planning process, that has contributed to the implementation of sustainable and equitable interventions for HIV/AIDS prevention and control in Uganda. Also, OHCHR advocated for the integrated Human Rights Based Approach (HRBA) to health to enhance equality, eradicate stigma and discrimination surrounding HIV/AIDS. The office provided technical support to Uganda AIDS Commission (UAC) and Uganda Key Populations Consortium (UKPC) to incorporate the HRBA to health into the Legal Environment Assessment (LEA) for HIV/AIDS. The LEA report was launched in June 2022 as a tool for engaging stakeholders to address punitive laws and human rights violations affecting the HIV/AIDS response in Uganda and people living with, at risk and affected by HIV/AIDS. In 2022, OHCHR provided technical support to the Uganda AIDS commission (UAC) and the Key and Priority Populations (KPPs) national steering committee in conducting Uganda’s second Key Population Response Prevention Self-assessment (PSAT), which will be used to analyse KPPs coordination mechanism and national program frameworks as well as progress made from the first PSAT conducted in 2020.
3. Enhancing and protecting civic space and people’s participation
OHCHR Uganda focuses on enhancing and protecting civic space and promoting people's participation through technical cooperation, particularly to the Uganda Human Rights Commission (UHRC). Human rights monitoring was a core aspect of OHCHR Uganda’s mandate that underpinned and informed all of the office’s work in Uganda. It proved to be a valuable tool that helped determine gaps in human rights and address human rights concerns and violations in Uganda. Capacity building initiatives for defence and security forces and civil society organisations (CSOs), including training, were carried out based on needs and findings emanating from monitoring work.
A strategic combination of OHCHR Uganda human rights monitoring, technical support, and capacity building training contributed to notable institutional reforms and corrective actions, including remedies for human rights violations by state institutions. For instance, over the years, OHCHR Uganda’s monitoring of detentions facilities and engagement with the Uganda Peoples’ Defence Forces (UPDF), Uganda Police Force (UPF), Uganda Prison Service (UPS) and the judiciary, often in partnership with the Uganda Human Rights Commission (UHRC), resulted in the release of at least 20,000 individuals arbitrarily arrested and detained, including in the context of the disarmament operations in Karamoja since 2007.
Between 2018 and 2022, OHCHR Uganda conducted over 300 monitoring missions, monitored over 50 military and civilian trials and visited approximately 270 places of detention. Human rights monitoring focused on a wide variety of allegations of human rights violations, including violations of the rights to life, security of person, protection from torture and other cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment, protection from unlawful and prolonged detention, including incommunicado detention, protection from sexual and gender-based violence, protection from unnecessary and disproportionate use of force, rights to freedom of expression, association and assembly, access to justice, the rights of minority groups and violations of economic, social and cultural rights including property rights and forced evictions.
OHCHR Uganda also monitored human rights in the context of elections. During the General Elections of 2011, 2016 and 2021, OHCHR provided technical assistance to State and non-State actors, including UHRC, improving their capacity to effectively monitor and report on respect for human rights during elections, including the observance of civil and political rights and establishing trends of violations.
An independent civil society, able to operate freely is essential to sustain peace and achieve development in any democratic society. The contribution of CSOs in building an open society that upholds the human rights of every individual cannot be underestimated. In recognition of the right of every person, individually and in association with others, to promote and strive for the protection and realization of human rights, OHCHR Uganda has continuously prioritized engagement and support to CSOs, including human rights defenders, journalists and media actors. In its engagement with civil society and human rights defenders, OHCHR Uganda contributed to raising awareness about various rights, including supporting rights holders to increasingly claim and exercise their rights. In 2013, OHCHR supported 300 human rights defenders from seven regions of Uganda to come together to form the National Coalition of Human Rights Defenders in Uganda. In addition, in a bid to recognize the unique contribution of women to the protection of human rights in Uganda, OHCHR supported the establishment of the Women Human Rights Defenders’ Network in 2018. Subsequently, the office trained 50 WHRDs in 2018, 42 in 2019 and 95 in 2021.
OHCHR Uganda trained hundreds of CSO actors on a range of human rights topics such as human rights monitoring, reporting, and advocacy which strengthened their collaborative approach to human rights advocacy through enhanced knowledge of human rights during the entire period of its operations in Uganda. Support was provided to Ugandan CSOs, which boosted their engagement with international human rights mechanisms. For example, in 2011, the office provided technical assistance to more than 100 civil society organizations to fully participate in Uganda’s first Universal Periodic Review process. Many of them were also able to participate in the consultations for the State report with OHCHR’s support. The strong mobilization and contribution of 300 members of Ugandan CSOs through seven regional and one national trainings, resulted in Uganda having one of the largest numbers of stakeholder submissions, a high number of representations by civil society and one of the highest numbers of recommendations made to any member State as well as a large number of interventions (55 States) during the interactive dialogue. Uganda’s State report was appreciated for its participatory and consultative approach as a true reflection of the Government’s efforts and challenges in the field of human rights over the previous years.
In 2011, the office conducted training workshops for 77 CSOs and CBO representatives working in the four districts of Pader, Kitgum, Agago, and Lamwo on monitoring economic, social and cultural rights and advocacy regarding the outbreak of “Nodding Disease” in northern Uganda. As a result of the training, CSOs took up concerted advocacy efforts with district officials, who in turn joined together with the Acholi Parliamentary Group. The district officials and MPs visited the affected populations with the Minister of State for Health and MOH officials, including the Director General of Health Services, and came up with strategies to act urgently to address the outbreak.
In supporting CSOs to enhance their ability to monitor and document human rights violations, between 2012 and 2022, OHCHR provided capacity-building support to CSOs through the creation of a human rights case database and trained a few hundred CSO actors around the country to monitor and report on human rights violations.
4. Integrating human rights in sustainable development
Since 2005, OHCHR Uganda has promoted the integration of human rights standards and principles in all development programs and projects, through targeted support to State and non-state actors. With OHCHR’s technical support, Uganda is one of the first countries globally to integrate the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) into its national planning framework. OHCHR supported the National Planning Authority (NPA) during the development of the National Development Plans II and III, which led to the inclusion of key human rights indicators in the two development plans, while the support to the Uganda Bureau of Statistics, (UBOS), contributed not only to the integration of human rights indicators in the national statistical framework, but also informed the development of tools for a human rights approach to the 2023 National Population and Housing Census. In addition, various capacity building interventions focusing on the UHRC and CSOs, contributed to enhanced appreciation of the linkage between human rights and development. The human rights-based approach (HRBA) to development was adopted through district council declarations, as a planning framework, by more than 20 District Local Governments in Uganda.
OHCHR Uganda supported the UHRC, the NPA, UBOS, and the Office of the Prime Minister to agree on a 2019 Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) between the four institutions, which aims at ensuring that data is collected in a way that ensures that the hardest to reach populations and those at risk of being left behind are fully reflected in Government planning processes to combat discrimination. Between 2020 and 2023, OHCHR supported these institutions in the implementation of the MoU within the context of the NDPIII to ensure that the four institutions aligned their data collection tools, analysis and planning to include the most vulnerable and marginalized groups.
OHCHR Uganda contributed to enhancing respect for human rights by businesses, through popularizing the United Nations Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights and supporting national level processes aiming at improving the legal and policy framework for respect for human rights by businesses. In collaboration with partners from Government and civil society, OHCHR Uganda supported, both technically and financially, processes leading to policy and legislative review, trainings and capacity building for state and non-state actors. Monitoring activities to document human rights concerns arising from business conduct were carried out for purposes of advocacy. OHCHR Uganda also created spaces, through dialogues, symposia, and other forms of engagements, for stakeholders, including those from within the Eastern African region, to discuss concerns relating to business and human rights. As a result of the work of OHCHR in this area, Uganda adopted its first National Action Plan on Business and Human Rights in October 2021, making it the second country in Africa to do so.
In its support to the Ministry of Health (MOH), OHCHR Uganda from 2021-2022 provided technical support during the joint inter-agency monitoring missions to refugee hosting districts. From a right-to-health perspective, 118 health facilities were assessed, focusing on quality-of-service delivery and integration of refugees and host communities in the national health system. OHCHR Uganda provided HRBA recommendations to MOH’s mid-term review of the Health Sector Integrated Refugee Response Plan (HSIRRP) 2019/24 to alleviate discrimination, ensure equitable access to health services for Maternal Newborn and Child Health, SRHR and HIV/AIDS. Recommendations were included in the HSIRRP 2022 priorities to reform the national health system and improve health services for refugees and host communities.
5. Increasing implementation of the international human rights mechanisms’ outcomes
OHCHR Uganda has supported the Government of Uganda, CSOs and the UN Country Team to engage with the African Union and the UN on human rights issues, including the Universal Periodic Review (UPR) process at the UN Human Rights Council in 2011, 2016 and 2022. OHCHR’s technical and financial support has proved instrumental in ensuring Uganda’s implementation of some UPR recommendations made by UN member states. For instance, OHCHR Uganda supported the technical review of the draft Bill to prohibit and protect against torture and ill-treatment which was enacted into domestic law in 2012. Likewise, OHCHR supported the adoption of a National Action Plan on Business and Human Rights in 2021, the development of a human rights checklist for Parliamentarians in 2017, and the development of a draft National Action Plan on Human Rights in 2016, among other achievements.
Since 2009, OHCHR Uganda has also supported the Government of Uganda to fulfil its reporting obligations to UN and AU Treaty Bodies, including the African Commission on Human and People’s Rights, the UN Committee on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights, the UN Committee on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities, the UN Committee on the Elimination of Discrimination against Women, the UN Committee on Migrant Workers, the UN Human Rights Committee, the UN Committee Against Torture and the Committee on the Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination.
In 2016, OHCHR Uganda technically and financially supported the conception and launch of a database for the Inter-Ministerial Committee on Human Rights to track Uganda’s progress towards implementation of human rights recommendations made by the UN, African Union, and the UHRC. The database has improved the Government’s ability to analyse and comply with its reporting obligations to the UN and AU, as well as to track progress made in the implementation of such recommendations. The database is accessible to the public and remains a useful advocacy tool for citizens’ engagement with the Government on human rights issues. The database is a model tool that has since been replicated in many other countries.
From 2010 until 2022, OHCHR continuously trained the UHRC, CSOs across the country and the UN Country Team to effectively engage with UN and AU human rights bodies.
In March 2022, OHCHR Uganda provided financial support to MoFA to facilitate a meeting to validate and finalize Uganda second periodic report to the Committee on Economic, Social, and Cultural Rights. OHCHR also supported NCPD and MGLSD to develop the draft of Uganda’s combined second, third and fourth periodic reports that were submitted to the CRPD Committee in December 2022.
Last reviewed: July 2023