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Amnesty International Wants Public Order Bill Shelved

Global human rights watchdog, Amnesty International, has once again voiced its opposition to the Public Order Management Bill 2011 currently being debated in the Ugandan parliament. Sarah Jackson, Amnesty International\'s deputy Africa director says the bill must not be allowed to pass in its current form as it poses a grave threat to basic freedoms in the country.
Global human rights watchdog, Amnesty International, has once again voiced its opposition to the Public Order Management Bill currently being debated in the Ugandan parliament.

 

The bill introduced was by cabinet in October 2011, seeks to provide for the regulation of public gatherings, prescribing the duties and responsibilities of the police, and the organizers and participants of such gatherings among others.

 

After long silence, it was returned on to the Order Paper for debate and possible passing amidst complaints from members of the civil society, opposition groups and human rights organisations.

 

On Thursday, as the deputy speaker of Parliament Jacob Oulanyah was about to put the Bill to vote, some opposition legislators rioted and blocked the move, forcing Oulanyah to adjourn the exercise to Tuesday next week. Aruu County MP Odonga Otto went to an extent of grabbing the roll-call lists from the clerks and tearing them into pieces. Odonga together with two other legislators had been suspended from the House for three sittings alleged misconduct. The other MPs who were suspended include Theodore Ssekikubo for Lwemiyaga County and Ibrahim Ssemujju Nganda, the Kyadondo East MP. Kampala Central MP Mohammed Nsereko was summoned to the Speaker’s office over the same.

 

But Amnesty International says the bill if passed into law would infringe on people’s basic rights. Sarah Jackson, Amnesty International's deputy Africa director says it must not be allowed to pass in its current form as it poses a grave threat to basic freedoms in the country. She particularly points out the rights for people to organise and participate in public meetings or gatherings which discuss political issues.  If the bill is passed, Jackson argues, these would be subject to heavy restrictions and controls by police.

 

Since the Bill was tabled before Parliament in 2011, Amnesty International has been voicing their opposition arguing that the proposed law is inconsistent and unnecessary.

 

According to the Bill, members of the public seeking to hold public meetings will have to notify the police before they can be allowed to go on with the meetings or demonstrations.

 

Clause 7 of the Bill states that an organizer shall give notice in writing to the Inspector General of Police of the intention to hold a public meeting, at least seven days but not more than fifteen days before the proposed date of a public meeting.

 

The bill was tabled at the height of opposition protests codenamed “Walk to Work.” Government reacted by sending the police to block or block the protests.

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