The Human Rights Advocate magazine is a legislative review and advocacy tool in favour of marginalised groups. Each issue contains deliberations from a variety of authors on a particular enactment or proposed enactment, which affects marginalised groups, all focusing on a common theme.
The third issue of the Human Rights Advocate focuses on the new Non-Governmental Organisations Act, 2016 and the impact of this Act on marginalised groups in Uganda. The Act came into force on 14 March 2016.
Although the Act was well intentioned in its objectives and some of its provisions, it has human rights implications at two interlinked levels. Firstly, the Act presents obstacles in the way of NGOs operations in Uganda in general and closes the space for civic participation in governance. At the second level, the NGO Act poses threats to the exercise of the right to freedom of association for marginalised groups in particular.
This third edition of the magazine contains an editorial, feature, two opinion pieces, two commentaries on the Act and two commentaries on case law. It also contains a case update on the case of Frank Mugisha, Dennis Wamala & Warry Ssenfuka v Uganda Registration Services Bureau (URSB), which challenges a decision by the URSB to refuse to register the name Sexual Minorities Uganda, and consequently incorporate the organisation because its objective of protecting for the rights of Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender (LGBT) persons was viewed as contrary to the laws of Uganda.
The editorial considers the NGO Act, 2016 and the two levels of threats that it poses from a human rights perspective. The feature considers the legislative history of the NGO Act and describes the contents of the NGO Act. The first commentary considers the NGO Act from an international human rights law perspective while the second commentary compares the regime governing NGOs in Uganda to that of Kenya. The first opinion piece argues that the NGO Act forms part of a broad series of ‘legalised repression’ of political rights and freedoms. The second opinion piece considers the impact of this law on the human development of the country through its repression of the associative rights of minorities. The first case commentary considers the impact of the recent Constitutional Court decision in the matter of HURINET and Others v Attorney General in which provisions of the previous NGO Act and Regulations were upheld on the new regulatory framework of NGOs. The second case commentary discusses the High Court case, which has been filed subsequent to the Uganda Registration Services Bureau’s refusal to register an organisation on the basis of its objective to protect the rights of LGBTI persons.
Finally, the Appendix contains the text of the NGO Act 2016; the position paper on the NGO Act, 2016 released by HRAPF shortly after the Act came into force and HRAPF’s suggested regulations to the NGO Act, which would address the concerns of minorities and marginalised groups in respect of the Act, are included.
We hope that readers find this magazine to be a valuable tool in analysing the human rights implications of the NGO Act, 2016. In particular, we hope that this magazine will shed light on the dangers presented to the future operation of NGOs advocating for the rights of marginalised groups or persons who engage in activities, which are criminalised along with the threats posed to the NGO sector as a whole. It is our aim for this magazine to be used as an advocacy tool to challenge the provisions of the NGO Act which are not in line with Uganda’s Constitution and international human rights standards.