National Coalition of Human Rights Defenders – Uganda (NCHRD-U) and the undersigned civil society organisations strongly condemn the continued violation of human rights by the Ugandan Police Force (UPF) following the 4 August raid on a lawful LGBTI assembly. We call on the Uganda Government to respect the rights to freedom of assembly as guaranteed by the 1995 Constitution of the Republic of Uganda.
On the night of 4 August 2016, the UPF broke up a beauty pageant organised by the LGBTI community in Club Venom, Kabalagala, a suburb in Kampala. The pageant was part of week-long celebrations to mark the Ugandan Pride Week. At least 16 people were arrested and hundreds more were detained at the Club for over 90 minutes. Several people reported being assaulted, either by police officials or while in police custody. One person was seriously injured after jumping from a 6-storey window to avoid arrest. Those arrested were released in the early hours of 5 August, without being charged.
The fourth Annual Ugandan Pride celebrations opened on 2 August and this event marked the third day of the celebrations. Due to uncertainty about the safety of the LGBTI community in Uganda, the main event scheduled on 6 August was indefinitely postponed.
“The rights to Freedom of Association and Assembly are enshrined in Articles 10 and 11 of the African Charter on Human and Peoples Rights and Articles 21 and 22 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political rights (ICCPR) which Uganda has committed to,” said Mr Ndifuna Mohammed, Chairperson of the NCHRD-U. “On 4 August the UPF assaulted citizens who peacefully exercised these rights, instead of protecting them as is their duty.”
In response to the raid, State Minister of Ethics and Integrity Fr Simon Lokodo held a press conference on 8 August where he claimed that the activities organised as part of the Pride Week were “criminal in nature and intent.” However, although Sections 145 – 148 of the Ugandan Penal Code prohibit same-sex relations, there is no law prohibiting LGBTI citizens from assembling peacefully. Contrary to claims by Fr Lokodo, the UPF had been notified of the event.
In his statement, Fr Lokodo further alleged that inducements, including money, are being “offered to young people to promote the practice [of homosexuality],” and called upon “all stakeholders Ministries, Departments, Local Governments and other agencies of Government, Faith Based Organizations, civil society organizations and the Media fraternity to join Government to curb the escalating levels of immorality” By levelling these baseless accusations, Fr Lokodo is putting an already vulnerable group at greater risk.
In April 2016, Sexual Minorities Uganda (SMUG) published a report detailing the continued trend of attacks on sexual minorities by both State and non-state actors. “And that’s how I survived being killed” documents 264 verified cases of persecution of Ugandan citizens because of their sexual orientation or gender identity. Of the cases verified, 35 involved physical threats or attacks and 13 instances of torture by the State, all of which the Ugandan government has failed to investigate.
“The UPF has a duty to ensure the safety of all Ugandan citizens, irrespective of their sexual orientation or gender identity,” said Ms Brenda Kugonza, National Coordinator of the NCHRD-U. “We continue to urge the Ugandan government to ensure that all its branches, including the police, uphold the rights of all citizens.”
We call on the government to:
- Thoroughly investigate the circumstances surrounding the raid and prosecute the errant police officers in accordance with the law;
- Guarantee a safe space for Ugandan citizens to freely exercise their rights without fear of attack from state actors;
- Ensure full compensation for the victims of the raid.
This statement has been co-signed by the following organisations:
- Avocats Sans Frontieres (ASF)
- DefendDefenders(East and Horn of Africa Human Rights Defenders Project)
- DefendersProtectionInitiative (DPI)
- Foundation for Human Rights Initiative Uganda
- Human Rights Centre Uganda
- Human Rights Network Uganda
- NGO Forum
- Uganda Law Society