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Uganda: Parliament Passes Anti-Terrorism Amendment Bill

(June 8, 2017) On April 5, 2017, the Ugandan Parliament reportedly passed the Anti-Terrorism Amendment Bill, 2017, which aims to make changes to the definitions of what constitutes “terrorism” and “an act of terrorism” under current law in order to ensure that the relevant Ugandan law is in keeping with “the revised international aspects envisaged by the United Nations Convention against Terrorism.”  (Parliament Passes Anti-Terrorism Amendment Bill, UGANDA TODAY (Apr. 6, 2017); Anti-Terrorism (Amendment) Bill, 2017, Memorandum, 110(2) BILLS SUPPLEMENT TO THE UGANDAN GAZETTE (Jan. 13, 2017), Uganda Parliament website.)  The bill amends the Anti-Terrorism Act of 2002  (promulgated May 21, 2002) (Uganda Legal Information Institute website).

The legislation must be signed by the President or be passed again by Parliament with the support of at least two-thirds of all its members before it can be enacted into law.  (Constitution of the Republic of Uganda (as at Feb. 15, 2006) § 91, World Intellectual Property Organization website.)  If it is enacted into law, the legislation will constitute the third amendment to the Terrorism Act, following amendments made in 2015 and 2016.  (Anti-Terrorism (Amendment) Act 2015 (June 19, 2015), Uganda Parliament website; Anti Terrorism (Amendment) Act 2016 (Jan. 19, 2016), Uganda Parliament website.)

Terrorist Acts 

If enacted in its current form, the proposed amendment would add a provision to the Anti-Terrorism Act to expand the definition of what constitutes an “act of terrorism” and ensure the term’s continued evolution by aligning it with international law.  The new provision states:

A person commits an act of terrorism who–

(a) carries out or perpetrates any act, whether occurring in Uganda or elsewhere, that constitutes a crime in accordance with agreements, protocols and treaties described in the annex to the International Convention for the Suppression of the Financing of Terrorism, 1999; or

(b) travels outside Uganda for the purpose of the perpetration, planning, or preparation of, or participation in terrorist acts or the providing or receiving of terrorist training.  (Anti-Terrorism (Amendment) Bill, 2017, § 2, amending § 7  of the Act.)

Terrorist Suspects

The amendment would also introduce a definition of the term “suspected terrorist” into the Act, lending a legislative underpinning to a definition developed and already in use by the executive branch of the government.  The new provision would define the term  as “an individual designated as such pursuant to regulations issued under section 32A [of the Act].”  (Id. § 1, amending § 2 of the Act.)  Through the 2016 Anti-Terrorism Regulations, issued by the Minister of Internal Affairs on the basis of the general regulatory powers accorded to him under section 32A of the Act, the Minister has the authority to designate anyone a terrorist suspect if he has “reasonable grounds to suspect that person” is engaged in certain activities, including membership in a terrorist organization or commission of a terrorist act.  (Anti-Terrorism Regulations 2016, S.I. Supplement No. 63, § 7 (Oct. 14, 2016), Financial Intelligence Authority website.)

Terrorism Financing

The amendment would expand the ban on terrorism financing by introducing language that criminalizes contribution of funds to or collection of funds in any context with the knowledge that it will be used by a terrorist person or organization for the purpose of committing a terrorist act.  (Anti-Terrorism (Amendment) Bill, 2017, § 3, amending § 9A of the Act.)  Under current law, only intentional collection or contribution of funds for such purpose is criminalized.  (Anti-Terrorism Act of 2002,  § 9A.)  Another way the proposed legislation seeks to broaden the ban is through the expansion to include suspected terrorists on the list of persons or organizations to or for which the contribution or collection of funds is criminalized.  (Anti-Terrorism (Amendment) Bill, 2017, § 3, amending § 9A of the Act.)