Uganda says it will not renew term of U.N. human rights office
KAMPALA, Feb 8 (Reuters) - Uganda will not renew the mandate of the United Nations' rights office in the East African country and will rely on domestic institutions to safeguard rights, the government said, after the body flagged torture and unlawful detention sites.
In a letter by Uganda's Foreign Affairs Ministry sent to Office of the U.N. High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR) on Feb. 3 and seen by Reuters on Wednesday, the ministry noted progress Uganda had made in developing a domestic capacity to monitor rights as the main reason for its decision.
"The ministry wishes to convey the government's decision not to renew the mandate of the OHCHR Country office in Uganda beyond the current term," said the letter, which the ministry confirmed to Reuters as authentic.
OHCHR Uganda country office spokesperson Bernard Amwine said had no comment. The OHCHR head office did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
During discussions of a report on torture in November, the body recognised Uganda's progress in developing national rights institutions.
Tensions were evident, however, when the body raised in the talks allegations of arbitrary detention of hundreds of people including critics of President Yoweri Museveni, and a lack of action to prosecute case of torture.
Attorney General Kiryowa Kiwanuka at the time said hundreds of torture cases had been successfully prosecuted and denied the government ran illegal detention centres.
A year ago, Ugandan military and police officers beat and seriously injured journalists who covered the delivery of a petition about human rights violations to the OHCHR office in Kampala.
Sarah Bireete, head of Kampala-based campaign group the Centre for Constitutional Governance said she doubted rights would be upheld by Uganda's own institutions.
"President Museveni's leadership has no commitment to the protection of human rights," she told Reuters.
Officials have denied almost all of the accusations of rights abuses and said all security forces implicated in rights abuses have been duly punished.
In the letter, the ministry said the government was committed to the promotion and protection of human rights and that there was peace, strong national human rights institutions and a vibrant civil society.
Museveni, 78, who came to power after a five-year guerrilla war, has ruled Uganda since 1986. Uganda's next election is in 2026 and Museveni is widely expected to seek another term, although he has not indicated if he will stand.
The OHCHR Uganda office was established in 2006 and was initially allowed to focus only on human rights issues in conflict-plagued areas in Uganda's north and northeast, according to the Uganda government. It was later allowed to cover the rest of the country.
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