Uganda: Kampala Declaration Casts Wider Net to Safeguard Human Rights

WHILE some gains have been registered over the course of a few decades in terms of safeguarding human rights, violations still persist in several parts of the world.

Enormous efforts have been made by human rights advocates, NGOS as well as some states in the fight against violations, but still agree that 70 years after the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (UDHR), the rights remain more of a dream rather than reality.

UDHR is a milestone document in the history of human rights. Drafted by representatives with different legal and cultural backgrounds from all regions of the world, the Declaration was proclaimed by the United Nations General Assembly in Paris on 10 December 1948 (General Assembly resolution 217 A) as a common standard of achievements for all peoples and all nations.

It sets out, for the first time, fundamental human rights to be universally protected, and it has been translated into over 500 languages. An official from the United Nations Commissioner for Human Rights, Ms Michelle Bachelet mentioned this in her foreword to the 2018 Report released in May this year.

She says that the year opened an era in which great progress was made; many countries unshackled people from systemic discrimination and strengthened their rule of law, made major progress towards economic and social justice, and advanced broader participation by the people in decisions.

In so doing, she adds, countries laid the groundwork for greater peace and more social harmony and sustainable development. They demonstrated that not only is respect for human rights an essential goal in itself; But it is also a massively positive investment, with wide-ranging and durable impact.

Moving from Switzerland - the working seat of the commissioner, we enter Uganda - where 2019 leaves a remarkable memory, where Chief Justices (CJs) from across African Union (AU) member countries, presidents and judges of supreme courts and courts of human right and tribunals, selected diplomats and journalists from Africa, America and Europe met.

It is from Munyonyo - an area on the northern shores of Lake Victoria and part of the metropolitan area of Kampala, where the Kampala Declaration was born and issued.

It was disclosed at the end of the three-day conference that was regulated by the African Court of Human and Peoples' Rights (AfCHPR) under the theme 'Tackling Contemporary Human Rights Issues: The Role of the Judiciary in Africa'.

Ugandan Chief Justice, Bart Katureebe who was the host to the conference, could not contain his admiration on the way the African Union (AU) and the African Court on Human and Peoples' Rights (AfCHPR) bestowed confidence upon Uganda to be the host of the Fourth Dialogue.

The country becomes the first country to host such dialogue outside the Seat of the Court in Arusha, Tanzania. Justice Katureebe says the theme of this Dialogue- 'Tackling Contemporary Human Rights Issues: The Role of the Judiciary in Africa' appropriately captures the mood of the current times, and that each Judiciary and AU member state has human rights issues to grapple with.

"Indeed each of our nations has a distinct history concerning human rights and the rule of law. This explains why many African nations have ratified the international and regional covenants and protocols on human rights," says the CJ.

The covenants and protocols include, but not limited to, the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR), the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights (ICESCR), the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child the African Charter on Human and Peoples' Rights (ACPHR).

He says that by hosting the Fourth Dialogue, it signifies Uganda's commitment to not only promoting and protecting human rights and the rule of law, but also to fostering international and regional cooperation.

"As the Ugandan Judiciary, we have greatly benefited from the Dialogue, since the topics were based on contemporary issues that impact our country and the African continent at large. These include issues of forced migration, statelessness, election petitions and terrorism," says the CJ.

Justice Katureebe is happy about interaction with other regional human rights courts, particularly the European Court on Human Rights and the Inter-American Court on Human Rights. Why does he single them out? It is because they have developed good and tested jurisprudence in respect to the protection and promotion of human rights.

On the same vein, the three courts came up with the Kampala Declaration. Dr Robert Eno is AfCHPR Registrar, who was basically the overseer of the conference physically from time to time, and is the custodian of documents at AfCHPR Registry. He says the three courts agreed on a number of issues in the Declaration.

The first one is to encourage member states of their respective organizations, partners, civil society and citizens to contribute to and support the continued organization of the International Human Rights Forum and the programs and activities of the Forum.

The courts under President Sylvain Ore (AfCHPR), Justice Angelika Nussberger who is the Vice-President of European Court of Human Rights and Justice Eduardo Ferrer Mac-Gregor Poisot, is the President of Inter-American Court of Human Rights, agreed to organize the International Human Rights Forum biennially.

The Forum will be in private and public sessions on a rotational basis, involving other regional and global human rights stakeholders, where necessary. These are usually forums designed to make sure human rights move from paper to the field in implementation.

Another important move taken by the trio in the Kampala Declaration is to ensure that the decisions and resolutions reached at the Forum are adhered to and implemented by allocating the necessary resources and appointing focal points for the required follow-up. They will as well be conducting staff exchanges.

"The courts settled to undertake knowledge-sharing through digital platforms, on topical human rights issues, including on, migration, violence against women, environmental hazards, climate change, bioethics, terrorism, mass data surveillance and on the working methods of the three courts," says Dr. Eno.

On the cards also includes developing an on-line learning courses on various aspects aimed at protecting human rights in their respective jurisdictions in particular, as well as globally.

Pushing further, Dr Eno says they will be publishing annually an electronic/ digital report on the leading judgments of the three courts with commentaries, where necessary, and taking into consideration the working languages of the respective courts.

Another important aspect that was not forgotten is the need to enhance dialogue and sharing jurisprudence with national courts, as one of the mechanisms for ensuring reference by national courts to the regional courts' judgments and contributing to the enforcement of these judgments in the long run.

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