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Government of Uganda ends UN human rights office mandate

The Government of Uganda has terminated the operations of the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR) in Uganda.

UN headquarters in New York

The Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR), a department of the United Nations Secretariat, is mandated to promote and protect the enjoyment and full realisation, by all people, of all rights established in the Charter of the United Nations and in international human rights laws and treaties.

The mandate includes preventing human rights violations, securing respect for all human rights, promoting international cooperation to protect human rights and streamlining the United Nations system in the field of human rights.

The Office was established in Kampala in 2006, with the initial mandate focused on the human rights situation in the conflict-affected areas of Northern and North-Eastern Uganda. However, it was renewed in 2009 and expanded to cover the entire country and all human rights issues.

In February 2020, the mandate for the Office was further expanded to include the establishment of a Regional Human Rights Training Centre in Uganda; to provide training activities on the international human rights system for Government officials of interested States in the region, as well as national human rights institutions and civil society organisations.

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The office was in the spotlight in the aftermath of the 2021 general election when military and police personnel clashed with a team of supporters of the National Unity Platform –NUP who were presenting a petition to the office over human rights violations in the country. Several journalists were beaten and injured during the scuffle that ensued.

The office has been in talks with the Government of Uganda about the modalities of a continued presence in the country. On January 4, 2023, the office sent to the permanent mission of the Republic of Uganda to the United Nations Office in Geneva an application for the renewal of the Host Country Agreement between the Government of Uganda and OHCHR.

But the Ministry of Foreign affairs says that given the strong government commitment to the promotion and protection of Human Rights, the prevailing peace throughout the country, coupled with strong National Human Rights Institutions and a vibrant Civil Society — with the capacity to monitor the promotion and protection of human rights throughout the country, it can no longer renew the mandate beyond the current term.

The decision is in accordance with Article 68 of the Host Country Agreement between the Government of the Republic of Uganda signed on February 9, 2020. A letter dated February 3 from the Ministry of Foreign Affairs indicates that the government of Uganda will now continue its cooperation with the OHCHR headquarters either directly or through its permanent mission in Geneva.

The ministry wishes to convey government’s appreciation to the OHCHR country office for its contribution towards the promotion and protection of human rights in Uganda, and the enhancement of the capacity of National Human Rights Institutions and Civil Society Organisations in the country,” the statement reads.

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