The COMPASS Coalition, a network of eighty religious and secular organizations from the global north and south strongly condemned the actions of the Ugandan government’s latest harassment and persecution of the LGBT and progressive faith community in Uganda. This comes in the wake of threats by Minister of Ethics and Integrity’s threat to forbid the gathering of other faith leaders for a conference to discuss pastoral care and protections of marginalized Ugandans that various faith communities are already on record to provide.
“It is unfortunate the Minister of Ethics and Integrity is now facing potential criminal charges of violating the Ugandan Constitution when he illegally invaded a training meeting of law-abiding Ugandans. Although the COMPASS coalition invited him to be a part of our Compass to Compassion Conference, he has threatened to forbid free assembly and association of Ugandan clergy and lay leaders to discuss pastoral care of marginalized Ugandans. This is not only unconstitutional but violates the Roman Catholic Church’s own position on pastoral care and protection of individual rights. Fr. Lukodo should know better,” said Canon Albert Ogle of the St. Paul’s Foundation for International Reconciliation.
The Foundation is sponsoring 26 individuals from countries where LGBT people are criminalized and often denied services so that can attend the World AIDS Conference in July and address legislators in DC.
Bruce Knotts, director of the Unitarian Universalist Association United Nations Office
There is a new and very disturbing trend afoot in the world. Some governments such as the one in Kampala, Uganda, and in other part of Africa, the Mideast and Eastern Europe are encroaching on the right to free speech and assembly.
We have seen these governments oppress their citizens who happen to have sexual orientations or gender identities different from what’s thought to be that of the majority. We have heard of torture, imprisonment, and death penalties.
However, some new horror is now abroad in these lands. Despite constitutional guarantees of free speech and freedom of assembly, these same governments are denying their citizens the possibility to meet and to discuss issues of equality and a dignified life for the citizens of the nation who exist in minority status with regards to sexual orientation and gender identity. Anyone to meets with others to discuss sexual orientation and gender identity human rights will be denied the right to do so.
In Uganda, the Minister of Ethics and Integrity has twice violated the Ugandan constitution and denied his fellow citizens the right to meet peaceful and to discuss human rights. We have seen similar moves in Nigeria, the Mideast and eastern Europe; but as we have seen before, the front lines in the battle to maintain freedom and human rights is again in Uganda.
International pressure needs to be maintained and increased to protect the freedoms and human rights of Ugandan citizens. We need to protect their right to meet and discuss freedom and human rights. We can understand that societies can take a long time to change. But no improvement is possible if people are denied the right to meet and discuss ideas. This right, at the very least, must be maintained and protected.
East and Horn of Africa Human Rights Defenders Project and allies
Tuesday, June 19 — Yesterday’s raid on a LGBTI workshop by the Uganda police was arbitrary, and an illegitimate infringement on freedom of association and assembly, said the East and Horn of Africa Human Rights Defenders Project (EHAHRDP), Front Line Defenders (FL), Foundation for Human Rights Initiative (FHRI), Amnesty International (AI) and the Civil Society Coalition on Human Rights and Constitutional Law (CSCHRCL) in a joint statement.
The organizations called on the Ugandan authorities to end their silence on harassment of LGBTI activists and live up to their rhetoric, that they do not support such behavior by its agents, which make a mockery of Uganda’s human rights obligations.
The skills-building workshop for LGBTI rights activists at Esella Country Hotel outside Kampala was abruptly closed after Ugandan police raided the venue a few hours after the three-day workshop started.
The workshop, organized by EHAHRDP, brought together approximately twenty defenders of LGBTI rights from Uganda, Kenya, Tanzania, and Rwanda.
This incident occurred barely four months after another LGBTI workshop was arbitrarily shut down by the Minister of State for Ethics and Integrity, Hon. Rev. Fr. Lokodo Simon.
“This arbitrary closure confirms a pattern of behavior by the authorities that LGBTI people, and those working on LGBTI issues, will not be afforded the same protections as other people in this country,” said Hassan Shire Sheikh, executive director of EHAHRDP.
Local journalists were the first to arrive at the workshop venue, having been tipped off by Simon that arrests were to occur at the venue. A large contingent of uniformed and plain-clothed police arrived at the venue shortly after, and sealed off all entrances.
Workshop participants, other hotel guests and hotel staff were then effectively held hostage for over three hours while police attempted to identify and detain the participants. Two EHAHRDP staff members, an EHAHRDP intern, and three workshop participants were detained in a police bus for approximately one hour.
One of the detained participants, Jane Wothaya, communications officer with Gay Kenya
Trust, said: “While walking back to the room with other colleagues, three police officers ran after me and grabbed me, mishandling me as they walked me back towards the front of the hotel. I felt intimidated… [and] was not informed why I was being arrested, or why I was picked among a group of other persons.”
Those who were detained eventually met with the Regional Criminal Investigations Department (CID) Officer Charles Kataratambi and other CID officers. The police advised EHAHRDP to stay the proceeding of the training and to deliver to the CID a copy of their registration and incorporation documents, which EHAHRDP promptly submitted yesterday. EHAHRDP was further advised to seek approval from police institutions when such gatherings are scheduled to occur in order to avoid future disruptions.
“The police advice to EHAHRDP has no basis whatsoever in law,” said Michelle Kagari, Amnesty International’s deputy director for Africa. “In this instance, the police have exceeded their authority. This continued harassment and intimidation of human rights activists must stop and the police need to start adhering to the laws they are supposed to protect and enforce.”
Bishop Christopher Senyonjo of Uganda
I believe the non-discriminating God cannot abandon his created beings. I am praying for [LGBT people in Uganda] during these very scary times. Our friends everywhere are watching and praying for the oppressed at the hands of the misinformed attackers. It is a sad day in any country when human beings are harassed and arrested simply for loving each other according to their innate identity.
African Men for Sexual Health and Rights
AMSHeR OUTRAGED AT THE SHUTTING DOWN OF A HUMAN RIGHTS WORKSHOP IN UGANDA
19 June, 2012
[Johannesburg] – The African Men for Sexual Health and Rights [AMSHeR] strongly condemns the unlawful shutting down of a human rights workshop in Kampala on Monday, 18 June 2012 by the police under the auspices of Uganda’s Ethics and Integrity Minister, Simon Lokodo.
The training workshop, organized by the Kampala-based East and Horn of Africa Human Rights Defenders Project, was aimed at providing human rights defenders with the skills to monitor, document and seek redress for, human rights violations. AMSHeR finds such actions in contradiction of the Bill of Rights of the Constitution of the Republic of Uganda which guarantees the rights to freedom of peaceful assembly and association [art. 29], respect of dignity [art. 24] and equality and non-discrimination [art. 21]. The actions of the police and Minister Simon Lodoko also contravene Uganda’s similar obligations and commitments under the African Charter on Human and Peoples’ Rights [art. 2,6,9,10,11], the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights [art. 2,9,19,21,22], and other international human rights instruments which similarly guarantee the above rights and freedoms.
State-sponsored homophobic attacks and discrimination encourage violence against LGBTI people and a culture of impunity. ‘These actions of the Ugandan government demonstrate to other state and non-state actors including the police and the general population that it is acceptable to violate the human rights of LGBTI persons because of their sexual orientation and gender identities’ said Kene Esom, AMSHeR’s Director of Policy and the Law. ‘The government and its agencies have the duty to protect the human rights of all persons within its territory, regardless of sexual orientation and gender identity,’ Kene added.
Such actions by the police prevent adequate monitoring and reporting of human rights violations targeting sexual minorities. Pepe Onziema, a human rights defender with Sexual Minorities Uganda noted that ‘This workshop was aimed at empowering us with the skills to document these violations in order to better engage government on the need to protect the rights of LGBTI people in Uganda”.
AMSHeR urges the Government of Uganda to honour its domestic and international obligations and commitments to respect, protect and ensure the fulfilment of rights of all people within its territory; and to particularly protect minority groups from violence and discrimination by taking proactive steps to put in place measure that prevent the violation of their human rights. The Government must also hold public officials and state institutions to the highest standard of decorum and discipline. Public officials who use the cloak of state power to violate rights must be brought to justice.
The workshop which brought together 20 human rights defenders [HRDs] from Uganda, Rwanda, Tanzania and Kenya, as well as seven staff of the East and Horn of Africa Human Rights Defenders Project was holding at the Esella Country Hotel, Najjera, Kampala when the organisers learned that the Ethics and Integrity Minister, Simon Lodoko had deployed police to shut down the meeting. About ten journalists arrived at venue and began taking photographs of the participants; the police, led by the head of the Kampala Metropolitan Criminal Investigations Department, arrived subsequently. The police condoned off the meeting venue and began questioning participants, forcibly entering the rooms of some of the participants and detaining about six of the participants in a police van for some time. This is the second incident of unlawful shutting down of a human rights workshop by the Ethics and Integrity Minister this year. In February, the Minister similarly shut down a human rights training workshop in Entebbe, Uganda alleging that it was promoting homosexuality.
AMSHeR is a regional coalition of 17 MSM/LGBTI-led organisations in 15 African countries working to address the vulnerability of MSM to HIV and to advocate for the respect and protection of the human rights of sexual minorities in Africa including the abolition of laws, policies and practices that promote violence, stigma and discrimination.
Ugandan government statement (from Uganda Media Center)
RESPONSE TO INTERNATIONAL CRITICISM ON THE ARREST OF GAY ACTIVISTS
June, 21 2012
Uganda has come under criticism for intervening in a gay activists’ meeting that was taking place at a Hotel in a city suburb early this week. Police intervened in the meeting that was suspected to be promoting gay activities and questioned the participants who were later released.
The Government would like to state that much as promoting gay activities is illegal according Section 145 of the Penal code Act, Uganda does not segregate against people of a different sexual orientation.
No government official is bent to harass any section of the community and that everybody in Uganda enjoys the freedom to lawfully assemble and associate freely with others.
Cultural attitudes in Africa are very different to elsewhere in the world, 2/3 of African countries outlaw homosexual activity and 80% of east African countries criminalize it. Whilst at a global level more than 80 countries outlaw homosexual acts.
The government would like to encourage all Ugandans to be vigilant and stay away from unlawful activities that would get them in trouble with the law.
Rev. Fr. Simon Lokodo
Minister of Ethics and Integrity