May 132012
Rebecca Kadaga

Rebecca Kadaga, the Uganda Speaker of the National Assembly, has launched the parliamentary handbook on human rights intended to guide legislators when handling human rights issues, emphasising non-discrimination.

The ‘Human Rights and Parliaments: Handbook for Members and Staff’ provides a basic introduction to human rights principles and practice as they apply to the work of parliaments worldwide.

According to the official parliamentary website, the handbook forms an expanded curriculum for training on human rights and the rule of law provided jointly by the International Bar Association’s Human Rights Institute, the [British] House of Commons and the Joint Committee on Human Rights as part of the Westminster Consortium.

The Speaker, who also opened a regional human rights workshop for MPs, said, “It is the duty of all democratic parliamentarians to promote welfare, reject discrimination, facilitate development, equity and justice as well as encourage civic participation.”

“The purpose of the handbook is to present practical tools which members and parliamentary staff may use in their work. It uses examples and case studies from around the globe.”

The workshop which was supported by the Westminster consortium and facilitated by the Foundation for Human Rights Initiative and the International Bar Association, also presented an opportunity for the dissemination of the handbook to the regional parliamentarians. The Westminster Consortium produced the handbook.

The Ugandan Parliament early this year approved the creation of a new parliamentary standing committee on human rights to be tasked with monitoring government compliance with human rights.

It is hoped the new standing committee proposed in the report on amendments to the Parliamentary Rules of Procedure on Tuesday, March 6, would reduce the burden of the Legal and Parliamentary Affairs Committee and the Equal Opportunities committees that were mandated to oversee this sector.

The move is seen as a breakthrough in Ugandan Parliament’s efforts to stem stinging criticism from the West on its human rights record, including gay rights.

Meanwhile, the Legal and Parliamentary Affairs Committee headed by Stephen Tashobya in its report to plenary recommended that the death penalty for homosexuals be retained in the Anti Homosexuality Bill 2009.

The report is due for debate in the new parliament since the bill has been reintroduced for consideration.

Many countries are anxious about Uganda’s human rights situation, especially the suppression of political dissent and gay rights.

Kikonyogo Kivumbi