During its 138th session, from 26 June to 28 July 2023, the Human Rights Committee will consider the 2th periodic report submitted by the Republic of Uganda and adopt concluding observations that will assist Uganda in the implementation of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR). In the context of this review, Lawyers for Lawyers submitted a report in which we highlight key areas of concern about the failure of the government of Uganda to comply with its international human rights commitments to guarantee effective access to legal services provided by an independent legal profession.
During its 135th session (25 June – 27 July 2022) the Human Rights Committee adopted a List of Issues in relation to the second periodic report of Uganda, in response to which Uganda submitted a reply. Prior to the adoption of the List of Issues on Uganda, Lawyers for Lawyers submitted a contribution to it. The report focused on lawyers as a central theme – particularly Uganda’s failure to ensure that lawyers have access to their clients and to lawyer-client confidentiality. Lawyers for Lawyers’ submission highlighted breaches of these obligations, particularly in cases concerning the LGBTQ+ community and sex workers. The submission also focused on the systematic harassment of lawyers working on politically sensitive cases, who can face arbitrary detention, intimidation and other interference in their work as a legal professional.
In its List of Issues, the Committee requested the authorities of Uganda to respond to reports that lawyers are discouraged from visiting their clients (especially those representing the LGBTQ+community and sex workers), by having to pay guards to gain access to their clients and facing intimidation during visits. The Committee further requested the authorities to respond to allegations of lawyers working on human rights cases facing arbitrary detention, intimidation and harassment. The Committee also asked the Uganda to respond to allegations of targeted break-ins at lawyers’ places of work and the failure to investigate those break-ins.
With our new report, we wish to provide a concise update to our report submitted before the adoption of the List of Issues. Since submitting our report for the adoption for the List of Issues in May 2022, new cases of interference with the work of lawyers have been brought to the attention of Lawyers for Lawyers, as described below. We call on the Committee to ask the authorities of Uganda to provide adequate answers to the questions listed in the List of Issues and make the following recommendations:
- Uganda should take measures to prevent the harassment of lawyers and attempts to impede orinterfere on improper grounds with th eir defense of clients, in accordance with Article 14 of the Covenant and article 16 of the Basic Principles on the Role of Lawyers. These measures should include the protection of lawyers working on sensitive cases involving the LGBTQ+ community and sex workers.
- Uganda should take all necessary measures to prevent that lawyers suffer or be threatened with prosecution or other sanctions on improper grounds, in accordance with article 14 of the Covenant and article 16 of the Basic Principles on the Role of Lawyers.
- Uganda should recognize and ensure that lawyers and their clients are granted adequate opportunities, time and facilities to communicate and consult with each other, without delay, interception or censorship and in full confidentiality, in accordance with article 14 of the Covenant and article 8 of the Basic Principles on the Role of Lawyers.
- Uganda should recognize and respect that all communications and consultations between lawyers and their clients within their professional relationship are confidential in accordance with article 14 of the Covenant and article s 8 and 22 of the Basic Principles on the Role of Lawyers. Such consultations may be within sight, but not within the hearing, of law enforcement officials.