The Observer (Kampala)

3 November 2013

Uganda: Details of Public Order Management Act Out

After the controversial passage of the Public Order Management Bill in August, Prime Minister Amama Mbabazi defended the new legislation, arguing that it restricted the police's from infringing on peoples' fundamental human rights.

This led some to speculate that there could be some modifications to the final text of the law. Among the few changes is the removal of the definition of a public meeting as a gathering consisting of three or more persons.

Also, while in the original text, a public meeting was supposed to take place between 6am and 6pm, the time is now between 7am and 7pm. Also, while originally, organizers of meetings were supposed to notify the police at least seven days in advance, that period is now down to three days.

Below is the text of the main body of the law, as assented to by President Museveni on October 2, 2013.

PART II- REGULATION OF PUBLIC MEETINGS:

3. Power of the Inspector General of Police or authorised officer

The Inspector General of Police or an authorized officer shall have the power to regulate the conduct of all public meetings in accordance with the law.

4. Meaning of "public meeting"

(1) For purposes of this act, "Public meeting" means a gathering, assembly, procession or demonstration in a public place or premises held for the purposes of discussing, acting upon, petitioning or expressing views on a matter of public interest.

(2) A public meeting does not include:-

(a)A meting convened and held exclusively for a lawful purpose of any public body;

(b)A meeting of members of any registered organization, whether corporate or not, convened in accordance with the Constitution of the organization and held exclusively for a lawful purpose of that organization;

(c)A meeting of members of a trade union;

(d)A meeting for a social, religious, cultural, charitable, educational, commercial or industrial purpose; and

(e)A meeting of the organs of a political party or organization, convened in accordance with the constitution of the party or organization, and held exclusively to discuss the affairs of the party or organization.

(3) For the avoidance of doubt, a public meeting convened by a group, body or leader in a group or body at-

(a) The ordinary place of business of that body, group or leader or

(b) Any other place, which is not a public place, in course of lawful business of the group, body or leader, is not a public meeting under this section, unless that meeting spills over into a public place.

(4) For the purpose of subsection (2), a public body includes government or any department of government, a local government, a body established by the constitution or an act of Parliament, a registered political party or political organization or a registered trade union. (5) Notice of public meeting

(1) An organizer shall give notice in writing signed by the organizer or his or her agent to authorized officer of the intention to hold a public meeting, at least three days but not more than fifteen days before the proposed date of the public meeting.

(2) The notice referred to in subsection (1) shall be in Form A in subsection 2 and shall include -

(a) The full name and physical and postal address of the organizer of the proposed public meeting and his or her immediate contact;

(b) Where applicable, indication of the consent of the owner of the venue where the proposed public meeting is intended to take place;

(c) The proposed date and time of the public meeting, which shall be between 7:00 am and 7:00pm but this time limit shall not apply to a town hall meeting;

(d) The proposed site of the proposed meting, the estimated number of persons expected, the purpose of the public meeting; and

(e) Any other relevant information.

(3) In the absence of Form A referred to in subsection (2), the organizer shall give notice in writing containing the information required under Form A.

(4)The notice to be given under this section shall be in triplicate and copies shall be given to the applicant and the proprietor of the venue where the public meeting shall be held.

(5) Where a public meeting is held, each of the persons organizing it commits offence if-

(a) The requirements of this section as to notice have not been satisfied; or

(b) The date when it is held, the time when it starts or its route differs from the date, time, or route specified in the notice

(6) It is a defence for the accused to prove that he or she did not suspect or had no reason to suspect the failure to satisfy the requirements or the difference of date, time or route.

(7) To the extent that an alleged offence turns on different of date, time, or route, it is a defence for the accused to prove that the difference arose from circumstances beyond his control or from something done with the agreement of authorized officer or by his direction.

(8) An organizer or his or her agent who holds a public meeting without any reasonable excuse and fails to comply with the conditions under this Act commits an offence of disobedience of statutory duty and is liable on conviction to the penalty for that offence under section 116 of the penal code Act.

6 Notification by authorised officer.

(1) Upon receipt of notice under section 5, where it is not possible to hold the proposed public meeting for reasons that-

(a) Notice of another public meeting on the date, at the time and at the venue proposed had already been received by the authorized officer; or

(b) The venue is considered unsuitable for purposes of crowd and traffic control or will interfere with other lawful business,

The authorized officer shall, in writing within forty-eight hours after receipt of the notice notify the organizer or his or her agent that it is not possible to hold the proposed public meeting and the notice shall be delivered to the organizer's address as stated in the notice of intention to hold a public meeting;

(2) Upon receipt of notification by the authorised officer, the organizer or his agent shall be invited to identify an alternative and acceptable venue or to reschedule the public meeting to another date or venue.

(3) Where the authorized officer notifies the organizer or his or her agent that is not possible to hold a proposed public meeting on the date or venue proposed, the public meeting shall not be held on that date or at the venue proposed.

(4) A person aggrieved by the decision of the authorized officer under this section may, within 14 days after receipt of the notice under subsection(1) appeal to magistrate's court in which jurisdiction the meeting was scheduled to take place.

7. Spontaneous public meeting.

(1) The notification required under section 5 shall not apply to a spontaneous public meeting.

(2) An authorized officer may direct any person participating in a procession meeting to disperse where-

(a) Notice of another public meeting at the same venue, date and time has already been received by the authorized officer; or

(b) The venue is considered unsuitable for purposes of traffic or crowd control; or

(c) Will interfere with other lawful business.

(3) For purposes of this section, "spontaneous meeting" means an unplanned, unscheduled or unintended public meeting.

PART III-DUTIES AND RESPONSIBILITIES OF POLICE, ORGANIZERS AND PARTICIPANTS

8. Powers of authorized officer.

(1) Subject to the directions of the Inspector General of Police, an authorised officer or any other police officer of the or above the rank of inspector, may stop or prevent the holding of a public meeting where the public is held contrary to this Act.

(2) An authorised officer may, for the purposes of subsection (1) issue orders including an order for dispersal of the public meeting, as are reasonable in the circumstances.

(3)An authorised officer shall, in issuing an order under subsection (2), have regard to the rights and freedoms of the persons in respect of whom the order has been issued and rights and freedoms of other persons.

(4) A person who neglects or refuses to obey an order issued under this section commits an offence of disobedience of lawful orders liable on conviction to the penalty for that offence under section 117 of the penal code Act.

9. Duties of the police.

(1)The police shall be responsible for preserving law and order before during and after a public meeting.

(2)For the purposes of subsection (1), the police shall:

(a)Provide security for both the participants and other members of the public likely to be affected by the public meeting;

(b)Ensure fairness and equal treatment of all parties by giving consistent responses to organizers of public meetings or their agents in a similar circumstance;

(c)Carry out risk assessment on all factors before the public meeting and notify the organizer or his or her agent accordingly;

(d)Identify an appropriate traffic plan to allow the flow of both vehicles and human traffic;

(e) Direct traffic and the routes to and from the event to prevent obstruction of pedestrian or vehicle traffic or any other lawful business;

(f)Dispense defiant or unruly crowds or individuals at a public meeting in order to prevent violence, restore order and preserve the peace.

10. Responsibilities of organizers and participants

(1)An organiser or his or her agent shall-

(a)Be responsible for adhering to the required criteria for holding public meetings;

(b)Inform all participants of the traffic or assembly plan and provide sufficient stewards proportionate to the number of participants in the public meeting who shall be clearly identified with name tags;

(c)Coordinate and cooperate with the police to ensure that all participants are unarmed and peaceful;

(d)Ensure that statements made to the media and public by the organizer do not conflict with any law;

(e)Ensure that the public meeting is concluded peacefully by 7pm;

(f)Be present at the public meeting and coordinate and cooperate with police to maintain peace and order.

(2)A person who participates in the public meeting shall act in a manner that ensures that obstruction of traffic, confusion or disorder is avoided.

(3)A person who contravenes this section commits an offence and is liable on conviction to a fine not exceeding 24 currency points or imprisonment not exceeding 12 months or both.

(4)A person convicted of an offence under subsection (3) shall pay compensation to a party or a person who has suffered loss or damage as a result of conduct of the convicted person.

PART IV-MISCELLANEOUS

An authorised officer shall keep a public register of all notices received under this act, and the register shall be open for inspection by any person during working hours.

12. Gazetted areas

(1) Where the minister is of the opinion that it is desirable in the interests of public order, the minister may, by statutory instrument declare that in any particular area in Uganda referred to as a gazetted area, it is unlawful for any person or group to convene a public meeting.

(2) A statutory instrument made under subsection (1) shall, before taking effect, be laid before Parliament for approval.

13. Restricted areas

(1) A person shall not enter any of the places specified in schedule 3 unless he or she has obtained permission from an authorised officer.

(2) The minister may, by statutory instrument, made with the approval of parliament amend schedule 3.

(3) A person who contravenes this section commits an offence and is liable, on conviction, to imprisonment for a term not exceeding two years or to a fine not exceeding forty-eight currency points or both.

14. Regulations

(1) The minister may, by a statutory instrument, make regulations generally for the better carrying into effect of the provisions or purposes of this act.

(2)The minister may, in any regulations made under this act, prescribe for a contravention of the regulations, a fine not exceeding twenty currency points or imprisonment not exceeding one year or both and in case of continuing offence, prescribe an additional fine not exceeding ten currency points for each day on which the offence continues.

(3)The minister may, in addition to any penalty prescribed under subsection (2), prescribe a requirement that anything used in the commission of an offence shall be forfeited to the State.

(4) Regulations made under this section shall, before taking effect, be laid before Parliament for approval.

15. Power of the minister to amend schedule 1

The minister may, by statutory instrument with the approval of cabinet amend schedule 1.

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