“In accordance with the 2022 State of Human Rights Report, the UHRC reports that there is a backlog of 1750 cases before the Human Rights Tribunal. The UHRC states that the backlog of cases is attributed to the absence of the Chairperson in 2021. In addition, the UHCR reports that the current backlog stands at approximately 1500 cases and that the UHRC projects to complete the cases in a six-month period.
The SCA notes the passage of the Anti-Homosexuality Act in May 2023 which imposes the death penalty for ‘aggravated homosexuality’. This Act is likely to exacerbate and legitimise continued stigmatisation, violence, harassment, and discrimination against LGBTIQ+ persons. The UHRC informed the SCA that it has written to the President and Parliament advocating for the Bill to be withdrawn. Further, that there is an ongoing case before Court which challenges the Constitutionality of the legislation. As the matter is sub-judice, the UHRC stated that it can only monitor the situation of rights of LGBTIQ+ persons and continues to engage civil society in this regard.
The SCA notes the publicly available information stating that the UHRC is ‘chronically under-funded and under-staffed, and reports of political interference in its mandate undermine its legitimacy, independence and impartiality.’ However, the UHRC states that its enabling law guarantees its independence and that since its establishment, it has not been subject to any form of political interference.
In response to the concluding observations by the Committee on the Elimination of Discrimination against Women of 2023 (CEDAW/C/UGA/CO/8-9) raising concern over adequacy of funding and steps being taken to address the issue, the UHRC stated that 98% of its budget is funded from government sources whereas 2% is funded from development partners. The UHRC reported that its current staff complement does not reflect the desired staff requirement to ensure effective performance of its mandate. Further, that the merger with the Equal Opportunities Commission will lead to an increase in the number of staff and address the shortage of staff.
The SCA notes that the UHRC did not provide any indication as to whether its funding is sufficient to enable the UHRC fulfil the full breadth of its mandate including effective resolution of complaints before the Human Rights Tribunal.
In considering all the information provided, the SCA is not satisfied with the following:
– how the UHRC has substantiated that it is fulfilling its mandate to promote and protect human rights in an independent and effective way;
– addressing the backlog of cases before the Human Rights Tribunal;
– how the UHRC has engaged on and publicly addressed human rights violations against LGBTIQ+ persons including the Anti-Homosexuality Law and its impact on the enjoyment of human rights;
– how it protects the independence of the institution and addressed reports of political interference in the execution of its mandate in practice; and
– evidence to show that the UHRC is adequately funded to be able to effectively implement the full breadth of its mandate.
An NHRI’s mandate should be interpreted in a broad and purposive manner to promote a progressive definition of human rights, which includes all rights set out in international, regional, and domestic instruments. NHRIs are expected to promote and ensure respect for all human rights, democratic principles, and the strengthening of the rule of law in all circumstances and without exception.
The SCA also emphasizes that to function effectively, an NHRI must be provided with an appropriate level of funding in order to guarantee its independence and its ability to freely determine its priorities and activities. In particular, adequate funding should, to a reasonable degree, ensure the gradual and progressive realisation of the improvement of the NHRI’s operations and the fulfilment of its mandate.
The SCA recommends that the UHRC take steps to implement the full breadth of its mandate in an effective and independent manner including addressing the rights of LGBTIQ+ people, the human rights impact of the Anti-Homosexuality Act and the resolution of complaints in a timely and efficient manner.
The SCA also recommends that the UHRC advocate for adequate funding necessary to ensure that it can effectively carry out its mandate including recruitment of staff and the effective resolution of complaints.
The SCA refers to Paris Principles A.1, A.2, and A.3. The SCA also refers to the Paris Principle B.2 and to its General Observation 1.10 on ‘Adequate funding of NHRIs’.”