Foundation for Human Rights Initiative (FHRI) (Kampala, Uganda)

My host organization is called Foundation for Human Rights Initiative, an independent NGO which was founded to enhance the knowledge, respect and observance of human rights in Uganda.

In my first week, I took part in a national conference on the protection of human rights defenders, hosted by FHRI.  Participants included a range of human rights activists, military leaders, university professors, Ugandan members of parliament, and international guest speakers.  Although it was my first day with FHRI, I was able to contribute to the workshop sessions, from which a set of recommendations were drafted and a declaration was made.  With a hotly-contested presidential election scheduled to take place in 2006, it is hoped that the product of this conference will ensure the freedom and safety of those committed to the protection of basic human rights on the ground level.

Since published reports are a crucial aspect of FHRI's work, I have also engaged in some drafting for the Bi-Annual Human Rights Report, which will be released later this summer.  My contributions thus far include an analysis of how the rights to life and security of the person have been respected over the past six months.  Sadly, allegations of torture perpetrated by various government agents are still rampant in this country.

Finally, I have also been directly involved with a momentous constitutional petition against the death penalty.  FHRI is working closely with lawyers from a prestigious Kampala law firm in an attempt to put an end to state-sanctioned killings.  In June 2005, the Constitutional Court of Uganda decided, in a split judgment, that although capital punishment is not unconstitutional per se, the imposition of mandatory death sentences and the lengthy delay between sentencing and execution are both unconstitutional practices.  Both sides are now preparing appeal submissions for the Supreme Court, but in the meantime and as a result of this judgment, 415 death row inmates who had received a mandatory death sentence are now entitled to a mitigation hearing whereby their sentences may be commuted to something less.  My role is to gather evidence related to mitigation and to assist counsel in preparing their submissions.  Not only is this work extremely eye-opening and poignant, but the potential of this case to set a landmark human rights precedent has already instilled a tremendous amount of pride in me.