The Uganda Parliament [official website] on Tuesday passed a new law that imposes restrictions on public meetings and gatherings in the country. The law requires that meetings of a political nature held between three or more people be authorized by the police and allows police to use force [AP report] in order to break up gatherings being held without prior approval. The new legislation comes in the wake of an increased number of protests against President Yoweri Museveni [official website], who has been in power for almost 30 years. Activists who attempted to challenge the legislation argue that the new law violates the Ugandan constitution, which allows for citizens to hold peaceful gatherings. Amnesty International (AI) [advocacy website] called the legislation [press release] "a serious blow to open political debate," and AI deputy Africa director Sarah Jackson stated, "Prohibitions on open political discussion and peaceful demonstration are alarming and utterly impermissible under international law."
Uganda [JURIST news archive] has drawn much international criticism in recent years regarding alleged human rights violations and treatment of those who are deemed to be government opposition. In August of last year Human Rights Watch (HRW) [advocacy website] reported [JURIST report] that the government of Uganda was harassing and intimidating rights groups and other non-government organizations (NGOs). Earlier in June Uganda's government banned 38 NGOs accused of promoting gay rights [JURIST report]. Also in June UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon [official profile] warned [JURIST report] that the Lord's Resistance Army (LRA) opposition group still poses a threat to children in Uganda. In May 2011 UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Navi Pillay [official profile] urged [JURIST report] Uganda's government to stop using what she called excessive force against protesters in the country.