Human Rights activists have urged Parliament not to pass a State House supplementary budget worth Ushs 200 billion for setting up a monitoring centre and procure surveillance equipment for the enforcement of the regulation for the Interception of Communication’s Act.
The request is being made under the National Budget Framework Paper for Financial Year (FY) 2014 / 15 – FY 2018/19 under Public Administration Sector which State House is responsible for.
The Parliament of Uganda passed the Regulation of interception of Communications Act in 2010 to provide for the lawful interception and monitoring of certain communications in the course of their transmission by telecommunication or postal services. This comes at a time when civil society organizations have criticized the mass surveillance government has decided to take up, the Chief Executive Officer at the Unwanted Witness-Uganda Geoffrey Wokulira Ssebbagala says that the move by government to the implementation of mass surveillance actions through draconian laws breaches Article 27 of the Constitution that provides for the right to privacy.
Article 27 (2) of the 1995 Constitution of Uganda states that no person shall be subjected to interference with the privacy of that person’s home, correspondence, communication or other properties.
“The more the government thinks about implementing it (the law) the more we feel threatened particularly our right to privacy and at the same time, the freedom of expression,” said Ssebaggala.
Ssebaggala argued that many people are likely to find themselves in jail simply for questioning or auditing the performance of government.
“Because the minister was given too much powers that one does not have to go to courts of law to seek for a warrant to spy on someone. It’s the minister to issue that warrant now and remember the minister is simply an agent of the President. The president will definitely be there to ensure government is not criticized,” Ssebaggala noted.
Ssebaggala further expressed dismay about the intended purchase of surveillance equipment in the absence of a Privacy and Data Protection law.
Ssebaggala warned Parliament not to endorse the budget request saying the implementation of the Regulation of the Interception of Communications Act particularly threatens the enjoyment of fundamental rights.
However the Deputy Chairperson for the parliamentary committee on ICT committee Vincent Bagiire notes that because the law was passed by parliament, it was obvious that it had to be operationalised, and thus the budget request.
Ssebagala said that the group is planning to embark on a campaign that will engage lawmakers to block the approval of this budget that will result into Human Rights Violations.
“Now that we are aware that there is a supplementary budget from the state house the next move of action is to move to parliament and campaign to ensure that this budget is not passed because the more they do it the more they endanger rights, freedoms and lives of our citizens”-Ssebaggala said.