Embrace Open Justice to improve judicial transparency and accountability in Uganda

open Justice
Justice Steven Kavuma greets Justice Anglin Flavia Senoga at his arrival to grace the opening of New Law Year at High Court in Kampala (Photo credit: RedPepper)

Continue reading “Embrace Open Justice to improve judicial transparency and accountability in Uganda”

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Using open data to strengthen human rights reporting and awareness creation in Uganda

With access to data by selected individuals and agencies, information could be used for selfish interests while limiting the additional pathways to raise awareness to human rights issues like describing a vivid story and sparking grassroots advocacy initiatives, while grounding these issues within a local context rather than relying so heavily on international initiatives with a Western lens.

On the other hand, lack of a centralized human rights data base affects human rights monitoring and reporting as each party interprets and reports what they have, but not what is actually on ground.

Photo Credit: Human Rights Network for Journalists Uganda- HRNJ

Uganda has an impressive legal framework like the Constitution of the Republic of Uganda 1995, chapter four of which highlights the fundamental human rights enjoyed by Citizens. Other laws include; the Access to Information Act 2005, Whistle blowers Act 2010, Anti corruption Amendment Act 2015, Anti torture Act among others.

The country prides in having an institutional framework supporting implementation, monitoring and reporting of laws namely, the Uganda Human Rights Commission (UHRC) whose mandate is spelt out in Article 52 of the Constitution, accredited with A status by the International Coordinating Committee of National Human Rights Institutions.

Law enforcement agencies like Uganda’s National Police force have a Directorate of Human rights and legal services, while Uganda People Defense Force (UPDF) has a human rights department.  Further more, Uganda has courts of law which administer justice and safeguard human rights. Through her institutional framework like the Uganda Human Rights Commission, Ugandans are sensitized on their human rights, access and protection thereof.

Overview on human rights performance In Uganda

Despite the legal, institutional and policy mechanisms, Uganda’s human rights performance remains dismal as human rights are under siege. The Global Integrity report 2011 conducted in 31 countries highlighted Uganda as having a low implementation gap with a score of 52%, with an excellent legal framework awarded at 98%, giving the country an implementation gap of 46%.

In Uganda, leaders have succeeded inculcating the minds of the citizens that human rights are no longer entitlements but tokens and privileges dangled out by the leaders. For example, while Ugandans have  the right to freedom of association, expression, movement and association as guaranteed by the Constitution of the Republic of Uganda, it has controversial laws like the Public Order Management Act 2013 and NGO Act  2016 which  could rob citizens of their rights.

The POMA requires citizens to seek permission from Police to hold a public gathering, which permission is often selectively or never guaranteed. Concerns about violations of freedom of association, assembly, and expression continued during and after Uganda’s February 2016 elections where the leaders of opposition were not allowed to gather for their cause and arrest of citizens under the disguise of idleness. Institutions like the Uganda National Police Force, Uganda People Defense Force and Courts which are supposed to safeguard human rights, are commonly cited at the center of the abuse.

During the 2016 elections, disenfranchisement of voters due to late delivery of polling materials in Kampala and Wakiso was cited, disenfranchisement of Ugandans in the diaspora, detainees, media was unable to operate freely and journalists were attacked and restricted while covering the elections, limited freedom of assembly especially for opposition candidates and supporters and excessive use of force by security agencies. This could be interpreted to mean that, human rights are no longer inalienable but offered as a piecemeal.

Despite having documentation of numerous human rights atrocities in Uganda, data sets on human rights reporting seem invisible. This alone can bring bias in human rights reporting; limit action on human rights injustices by interested actors as well as hinder awareness creation efforts.

Current Reality

Uganda has numerous human rights activists and agencies finding difficulty in accessing human rights data sets as each party  i.e activists and government has an independent database for individual use.

With access to data by selected individuals  and agencies, information could be used for selfish interests while limiting the additional pathways to raise awareness to human rights issues like describing a vivid story and sparking grassroots advocacy initiatives, while grounding these issues within a local context rather than relying so heavily on international initiatives with a Western lens.

On the other hand, lack of a centralized human rights data base affects human rights monitoring and reporting as each party interprets and reports what they have, but not what is actually on ground.

Whereas the Uganda Human Rights Commission (UHRC) is mandated to document cases of human rights abuses throughout the country, its work and operation are curtailed by limited funding and staffing. As a result, instead of carrying out independent documentation, UHRC relies on police records and cases only brought forward and registered in their offices.

Furthermore, even civil society actors  seem to operate in isolation, each with its own data. This makes national outlook on human rights reporting incomplete.

How open data strengthens human rights reporting  and awareness creation.

To curb human rights violations, open data advocacy and data analysis should be applied in reporting human rights violations. Good data analysis by human rights groups will help bolster litigation cases, and technology will provide free and open access to the data that governments and the public possess.

Access to data can make it to be used more widely and effectively in cases. With increased access, data could be open to analysis by a larger range of actors, including a variety of local human rights groups, which could help mitigate bias. With few people accessing human rights violation data, it is much easier to paint a subjective picture within a court of law.

Therefore, using data to tell a story, analysis, visualization and reporting can play a huge role in stimulating grassroots engagement campaigns or legislative policy advocacy. The end result can present an opportunity to utilize these strategies to monitor human rights.

Conclusion

Having a central database for human rights violation in Uganda is important to ease access to human rights violation cases by human rights groups, Journalists, state agencies and general public as a whole. While all actors i.e Civil Society, Journalists and state agencies may be inputting cases in the data portal, with centralized information, it’s anticipated that government will ease access to justice for the human rights victims.

With the database, parties will able to hold others accountable because performance benchmarks will be accessed by all i.e rate of disposing off cases, access to justice and evidence based data driven compelling stories will be produced by media without bias.