Uganda police raid LGBT rights workshop

Woman detained by police at LGBT workshop on June 18. (Photo courtesy of NTV. Click photo to see video.)
Woman detained by police at LGBT workshop on June 18. (Photo courtesy of NTV. Click photo to see video.)

Police raided an LGBT rights workshop today in Uganda’s capital, Kampala.

Amnesty International reported in a press statement that the session,  attended by lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) activists, was organized by the  the East and Horn of Africa Human Rights Defenders Project, which is organizing a series of workshops to improve the local gay community’s ability to report rights abuses.

“At least five staff of the East and Horn of Africa Human Rights Defenders Project (EHAHRDP) who organised the workshop were detained by the police along with at least 12 of the workshop participants,” according to the Amnesty statement.

Those detentions were reported as arrests by the Egypt-based Bikya Masr news website.

Police raid LGBT rights meeting near Kampala, Uganda. (Photo courtesy of NTV. Click photo to see the video.)
Police raid LGBT rights meeting near Kampala, Uganda. (Photo courtesy of NTV. Click photo to see video.)

NTV reported that only four were detained, and they were released after their lawyers arrived on the scene.

Participants were from Canada, Rwanda, Kenya, Uganda and Tanzania.

Some reportedly escaped before the police arrived, having been warned by members of the media that police were on their way.

NTV reported that Ugandan ethics minister Simon Lokodo had tipped off police about the meeting.

Police forced their way into some activists’ hotel rooms, the AFP news service reported.

London-based Amnesty International urged police to stop harassing the LGBT community in Uganda.

Michelle Kagari, Amnesty International’s deputy director for Africa, said:

“This ludicrous and senseless harassment of human rights activists has no basis in law whatsoever and has to stop.

“We are seeing a worrying pattern emerging whereby the Ugandan authorities engage in arbitrary activities deliberately designed to intimidate and threaten legitimate human rights work.”

“The participants in this workshop had done absolutely nothing wrong and we call on the police to end this outrageous behaviour which makes a mockery of Uganda’s human rights obligations.”

In a similar action in February, ethics minister Lokodo and police broke up a gay rights workshopin Entebbe that he declared an “illegal assembly.”

In March, gay rights activists sued Lokodo. They said Lokodo’s disruption of the workshop violated their constitutionally guaranteed freedom of assembly.

More recently, Lokodo threatened legal action against a proposed conference in Uganda at which religious and political leaders would discuss the effects of the country’s laws against homosexuality.

(This post was updated June 19 with information from NTV and a link to the Amnesty International statement.)

Written by Colin Stewart

Colin Stewart is a 45-year journalism veteran living in Southern California. He is the president of the St. Paul’s Foundation for International Reconciliation, which supports LGBTQ+ rights advocacy journalism, and editor/publisher of Erasing 76 Crimes. Contact him at info@76crimes.com.

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