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The Republic of Uganda



Uganda signed the Malabo Protocol in July 2017, indicating support for the African Court. Uganda generally has a positive attitude towards African Human Rights mechanisms including the African Court of Human and People’s Rights. Also, Uganda was the first country to refer a situation to the ICC after ratifying the Rome Statute in 2002 and has transferred indictees to the ICC. The country also hosts an ICC field office. But in recent years Uganda has been one of the African countries accusing the Court of being used as a “tool to target Africa” and claiming Uganda would not cooperate with the ICC. Despite President Museveni’s threat in 2014 to leave the ICC, however, the Attorney General gave assurances in April 2017 that the country would not pull out.


Treaty ratification Process 

The making and ratification of treaties is governed by the 1995 Constitution and the Ratification of Treaties Act (RTC) of Uganda. The Constitution gives Parliament the power to make laws regarding the ratification of international instruments. However, the power to ratify treaties is vested in the Executive branch of government (the Cabinet), except for treaties related to armistice, neutrality or peace; or treaties which require an amendment of the Constitution for their implementation. Ratification is recommended by an ad-hoc inter-ministerial committee (IMC), which evaluates the benefits and obligations arising from the treaty. The recommendation of the IMT is considered by the Cabinet for treaties that may be ratified by the Executive branch, including those related to human rights. If approved, instructions are issued to the Minister of Foreign Affairs to draft and deposit the instrument of ratification. As the Attorney General must send Parliament any ratified treaty for domestication, Uganda can be characterized as a dualist state.


State of legislation on International and transnational crimes

Eight years after being ratified, the Rome Statute was domesticated in Uganda through the enactment of the International Criminal Court Act of 2010. This made all of the core international crimes, with the exception of the crime of aggression, prosecutable before domestic courts. A specialized criminal division – the International Crimes Division (ICD) – was also established at the High Court in 2008, with jurisdiction over several transnational crimes (terrorism, human trafficking, and “other international crimes”), in addition to the core international crimes. It has only delivered four judgments in criminal prosecutions so far; two on terrorism, one involving human trafficking and another one on the application of the amnesty law to convicted persons.

Most of the transnational crimes in the Malabo Protocol are fully or partially defined under Ugandan national law, including trafficking in hazardous wastes, trafficking in persons, trafficking in drugs, corruption, money laundering, and terrorism. The definitions of these crimes under domestic law are identical or highly similar to the definitions of the same crimes under the Malabo Protocol. The crime of unconstitutional change of government, is partially defined under the penal code, while the crime of piracy, although included in the Penal Code, is defined and punished under the terms of the law of England. The crimes of aggression, mercenerism, and illicit exploitation of natural resources are not defined in Ugandan law.


Human Rights treaty signing and ratification trends

Uganda is a state party to most of the major human rights and crime-related instruments adopted under the aegis of the AU and UN.[1] It takes an average of 50 months to ratify AU agreements, with treaties recognizing human rights or creating criminal jurisdiction among the fastest to be ratified (only 15 days for the Protocol establishing the African Court).[2] UN treaties only take an average time of 15 months to be ratified after signature; three times less than what it takes to ratify AU treaties.[3] It is not clear why there is such a wide ratification time difference between UN and AU agreements.


AU Judicial bodies membership

Treaty Signature Ratification
Protocol to the African Charter on Human And Peoples’ Rights on the Establishment of an African Court on Human and Peoples’ Rights Yes Yes
Protocol of the Court of Justice of the African Union Yes No
Protocol on The Statute of the African Court of Justice and Human Rights (Merger Protocol) No No
Protocol on Amendments to the Protocol on the Statute of the African Court of Justice and Human Rights Yes No


[1] Annex – treaty signing and ratification trends calculation chart: Uganda.

[2] The calculation only includes treaties which are signed and subsequently ratified and hence does not consist treaties which have been acceded to by Uganda. Ibid.

[3] The same calculation is applied as above.