In June 2014, with support of the UN Office of the High Commissioner the National Coalition of Human Rights Defenders Uganda hosted 40 Human rights defenders to an intense three day workshop on Monitoring, Documentation and reporting of human rights violations in Mbale,Eastern Uganda. The Human Rights defenders were drawn from various thematics: Child rights protection, land rights, women rights et al. The participants engaged with the facilitators on engaging Human rights protection mechanisms inclusive of national, regional and International. A documentary around the workings of the Human Rights Council was also shared with participants! HRDs in the region realise that there has been surging rights abuses in mining areas of Karamoja and post disarmament abuses that still need redress. So they found the training useful.
HRDs drawn from Teso and Karamoja sub-region pose for a group photo with the team from office of the UN and the National Secretariat for HRDs Uganda in Mbale
” Equipping us with MDR skills not only enhances our knowledge …said Mr. Yusuf Makweta, Mbale HRD Focal person..but it also enables us to contribute to reports on the Country human rights situation”
The National coalition of human rights Defenders in close collaboration with the office of the UN, organized a two day training for HRDs in the eastern region. The training focused on human rights knowledge and mostly monitoring, documentation and reporting of human rights violations. As most of participants work on reporting Human Rights Violations, it presented them an opportunity to boost their capacity in reporting and documentation. The objectives of the training were to allow appreciation of a common understanding of human rights, appreciation of specific human rights legal frameworks at national ,regional and international level for protection of human rights defenders; it was also to help participants acquire knowledge and skills on human rights monitoring.
Andrew Akutu Human rights officer from the office of the UN takes participants through the National, regional and international protection mechanisms for HRDs
This initiative feeds in to the greater objectives of the National coalition of human rights defenders which are geared to ensuring an enabling working environment for HRDs in Uganda. Through improved reporting, it would help to raise the coalitions’ advocacy efforts at both National and regional level. Within the National Coalition membership, there are already organizations that do advocacy at both National and international level. With good reports founded on verified statistics, then it would help to realise evidence based advocacy in a bid to address the human rights violations in the region.
Human Rights Defenders continue to face clamp downs by state actors or other perpetrators during the course of their work. This is more prone with Journalists covering sensitive stories, individual HRDs who blow the whistle or bring to the spotlight controversial governance issues. In the recent past, in Uganda we have seen journalists arrested and imprisoned in unknown places. Most recent being the arrest of a Top Radio Journalist on November 26th, 2013 for hosting the deputy mayor of Kampala. He was detained without charge with two other journalists of the same station (http://www.hrnjuganda.org/alerts&stories_full.php?full=102). These trends are worrying and as such an application has been developed to give some level of security to Journalists at the frontlines as we lead up to the 2015 early campaigns. This application is called the Panic Button.
As part of the PANIC Button Project, Amnesty International in partnership with the East and Horn of Africa Human Rights Defenders Project and the National Coalition of human rights defenders Uganda is training various individuals/organisations as panic button pilot users. Each of these individuals is availed with a handset to enable them use the application and give feedback in the pilot phase on how applicable and useful it is to them. Importantly how it can be improved to suit their contexts, and this will go on for a pilot phase of 6 months.
Today at the National Coalition of Human Rights Defenders Secretariat, we hosted Ms. Halima Athmani a journalist with Ugandan Radio Network for an introductory training in use of the Panic Button. As a team at the secretariat , we ran her through the basics and practical aspects of using the application.
“I think this application is a great innovation especially for me as a journalist who during certain moments is at risk of being arrested while covering protests in Uganda. So am certain this application in times of distress shall act as my rescue button or lead to my rescue!” Halima Athmani
We hope this application will go along way to enhance the response accorded to HRDs at most risk. We will be engaging with another batch of HRDs for this pilot phase.