IGLHRC to the Goverment of Uganda: Stop Harassment, Intimidation and Violation of Basic Human Rights of Individuals Arrested under the Anti-Homosexuality Act

Contacts: In New York, Suzanne Trimel, Director of Communications, strimel@iglhrc.org, 212-430-6018; in Johannesburg, Shehnilla Mohamed, Africa Regional Program Coordinator, smohamed@iglhrc.org +27 11 486 9352, +27824591855

(JOHANNESBURG) -- The International Gay and Lesbian Human Rights Commission (IGLHRC) on Friday demanded that the Government of Uganda drop criminal charges and cease investigations into individuals reportedly arrested for “promoting” homosexuality under the Anti-Homosexuality Act (AHA) of 2014. IGLHRC’s demand followed a statement issued by the Ugandan government on Monday claiming the AHA has been “misinterpreted” as legislation intended to punish and discriminate against the lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender (LGBT) Ugandans.

On Wednesday the online version of the Daily Monitor newspaper reported that 5 individuals were arrested in the northern district of Pader under the AHA. Following the report the Human Rights Awareness and Promotion Forum (HRAPF) and Sexual Minorities Uganda (SMUG) sent a legal team to Pader to investigate the report. On Friday the team released a report on their findings in which they confirmed that 5 people, including a minor, were arrested in Pader on allegations of homosexuality.

According to HRAPF the 5 were not charged with any offence but statements were taken from them. They were allegedly also subjected to anal examinations, which, it was reported, proved to be ‘inconclusive’.

“The file was forwarded to the resident state attorney of Pader who did not advise on the charge but instead sent the file back to the police commenting that there was no evidence of any offence related to homosexuality. The police released all the persons who had been arrested on Police Bond. The file, however, remains open and ‘investigations’ are ongoing,” HRAPF reported.

IGLHRC is extremely concerned about the continued harassment and arbitrary arrests of people under the AHA. “The government of Uganda appears to be talking out of both sides of its mouth—on the one hand stating it has no intent to punish or discriminate against those perceived to be LGBT and on the other, allegedly arresting individuals either for the crime of being LGBT, perceived to be gay, or for ‘promoting’ homosexuality. This is outrageous and shows clearly why this hateful legislation must be overturned,” said Shehnilla Mohamed, IGLHRC Africa regional program coordinator in Johannesburg. “If the Ugandan government truly wants to affirm its commitment to protecting the rights of all individuals, as it states, then it must stop all investigations into the alleged accused as a first step.”

Based on its fact-finding trip to Uganda in April, IGLHRC said it found the AHA has already had drastic consequences for the LGBT community and its allies. Activists and LGBTI organizations, along with their allies from other human rights organizations, were unable to speak publicly or to provide services to their constituencies for fear of arrest. Partners reported an increase in intimidation by the police and local village leaders, often leading to physical attacks, arrests, extortions and evictions of LGBT individuals.

“If the government wants to have any credibility and take steps to blunt the dire consequences of the AHA, it should immediately put into place strategies to guarantee the safety and security of the LGBT community,” said Mohamed.

The Ugandan government statement issued on Monday said the AHA had been “misinterpreted as a piece of legislation intended to punish and discriminate against people of a ‘homosexual orientation’.” On the contrary, it stated, the intention of the Act was to “stop promotion and exhibition of homosexual practices.”

However, IGLHRC said that the AHA would continue to have severe consequences for as long as it remained a statute. “This law ultimately must be repealed,” said Mohamed.

The AHA imposes harsh penalties against people engaging in private, consensual same-sex sexual relations and includes the offence of “promotion” that has far reaching implications for the work of individuals human rights defenders and organizations providing services to and/or working alongside lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender persons.

IGLHRC and its allies have called for the repeal of the law in its entirety. Until that happens, the organizations are urging the Ugandan government to ensure the constitutional right to equal treatment and privacy of all citizens is protected and upheld and to provide an environment for LGBT organizations and all civil society activists to operate freely without fear of arrest, violence or intimidation, either from the authorities or other citizens.

"Activists in Uganda have called for their government to expedite the finalization of guidelines and regulations for the implementation of the Act, which they believe could help limit its scope."