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Margaret Sekaggya: New Special Rapporteur on Human Rights Defenders

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The UN Human Rights Council’s new mandate holder for the Special Rapporteur on Human Rights Defender, Uganda’s Margaret Sekaggya, has a long history of involvement in human rights issues and will continue to work towards the implementation of the Declaration on Human Rights Defenders.

{mosimage}(Bangkok) The UN Human Rights Council (HRC) recently appointed a new mandate holder for the Special Rapporteur on Human Rights Defender, Margaret Sekaggya from Uganda. Ms. Sekaggya will continue the work of her predecessor, Hina Jilani, in supporting the implementation of the Declaration on Human Rights Defenders and gathering information on the situation of human rights defenders around the world. Ms. Sekaggya is a noted lawyer and academic who has devoted much of her career to human rights work.

Ms. Sekaggya holds an LLB (Hon) degree from Makerere University in Uganda and a Master of Laws degree (LLM) from the University of Zambia. From 1982 to 1995, she was a lecturer at the United Nations Institute for Namibia, where she taught on the criminal justice system, including rights of peoples. From 1990 to 1995, she was principal lecturer at the Law Development Centre in Uganda, where she taught issues on human rights, especially environmental law.

Ms. Sekaggya has also worked in the judiciary in Uganda and was a Commissioner with the Uganda Interim Electoral Commission, which organised the 1996 elections and in which she dealt with human rights issues during elections to ensure that the laws passed complied with human rights instruments.

At present, Ms. Sekaggya is the Chairperson of the Uganda Human Rights Commission (UHRC), a post she has held since its establishment in 1996. Ms. Sekaggya played a crucial role in the establishment of the commission. Many Ugandan human rights organisations have praised her for her role in maintaining to a significant degree the independence of the UHRC, despite it being closely associated with the government.

In 2003, the Ugandan Cabinet proposed to a Constitution Review Commission that the UHRC be abolished and its functions transferred to the Inspectorate of Government (IGC) so that the government would be spared of the cost of running two institutions. Ms. Sekaggya was a strong proponent for the independence of the UHRC, opposing the Cabinet’s proposal and arguing that the statutes and mandates of both establishments differed. She pointed out that the IGC’s mandate was to promote general fairness in public administration, whereas the UHCR focused on human rights and covered private entities and issues that the ICG had not been mandated to deal with.

As Chairperson of the UHCR, she has worked to apply the international human rights instruments by reviewing the bills going through the Parliament to ensure that they are compliant with international standards. Her commission has also been extensively involved in issues regarding the rights of children and of disabled persons.

She is also currently the Chairperson of the African National Human Rights Institutions Coordination Committee, and is also a member of the UN High Level Task Force on the Rights to Development. She is also engaging with civil society organisations. Currently, she is a board member of the International Service for Human Rights (ISHR), an international NGO serving human rights defenders through development, and strengthening the effective use and implementation of international and regional standards and mechanisms for the protection and promotion of human rights.

Her areas of special interest include human rights, national human rights institutions, constitutional law and constitutionalism, environmental law and environmental protection, and the criminal justice system.