Ugandan opponents of the harsh new Anti-Homosexuality Act are hoping for an immediate victory tomorrow in their Constitutional Court challenge to the legitimacy of the law.
The court is expected to rule tomorrow on whether parliament acted unlawfully last December when Speaker Rebecca Kadaga called for a vote on the bill when a quorum was lacking.
If the court agrees with that argument, the law is likely to be struck down. If the court disagrees, it will proceed to consider whether the law violates the Ugandan constitution.
The law provides for imprisonment for five to seven years for anyone convicted of “promoting homosexuality” or who “in any way abets homosexuality and related practices.” (See more provisions of the law in the article “Draconian details of Uganda’s misguided new anti-gay law.“)
The current challenge was brought by LGBT and human rights activists, legal experts and opposition politicians.
If the court agrees that Parliament broke procedural rules, plaintiffs’ attorney Nicholas Opiyo told BuzzFeed, “it appears … it will dispose of the entire case,” and “it looks likely” that it will decide that tomorrow (Thursday).
The following report on today’s proceedings was prepared by Adrian Jjuko, executive director of the Human Rights Awareness and Promotion Forum — Uganda (HRAPF), who chairs the legal committee of the gay-friendly Civil Society Coalition on Human Rights and Constitutional Law.
Today, the Constitutional Court of Uganda heard the Petition against the Anti Homosexuality Act as planned.
Five of the Petitioners were in court: Prof. J Oloka-Onyango, Hon. Fox Odoi, Frank Mugisha, Jacqueline Kasha Nabagesera and HRAPF. They were represented by five counsel: Ladislaus Rwakafuuzi, Caleb Alaka, Francis Onyango, Nicholas Opiyo and Fridah Mutesi. The Attorney General was represented by Principal State Attorney (PSA), Ms. Patricia Mutesi.
Five Justices of the Constitutional Court [were present]: Hon. Justice S.B.K Kavuma, Hon. Justice A.S Nshimye, Hon. Justice Mwanguhya, Hon. Justice R Opio Aweri, and Hon. Lady Justice Solomy Balungi Bbossa.
The case started with the lead Counsel for the Petitioners, Mr. Rwakafuuzi introducing the legal team and the case for the petitioners, and informing court that the petitioners were ready to proceed.
The PSA raised an objection that the state was not ready to proceed since they had been granted up to 10th September to finalise preparations on the matter. She submitted that they intended to file supplementary affidavits. She wanted the heaing to be restricted to the applications for an interim injunction.
The Justices adjourned court for 20 minutes to deliberate on this. They returned with a ruling that since the state has not filed any application to file affidavits out of time, there was no basis for the PSA’s assertion. They ruled that the hearing of the Petition should go on.
The PSA then asked court to stay the hearing since they intended to appeal the ruling. The Court heard arguments on both sides and once again decided to proceed with the hearing. Court asked Counsel for the Petitioners to submit on Issue no. 1.
Counsel for the petitioners submitted on Issue No. 1 which is on quorum arguing that the Constitution requires the Parliament to have quorum as laid down in the Rules of Procedure before they can pass a bill into law. The Rules of Procedure require the Chairperson (Speaker) to ascertain quorum when the issue is raised. That this was not done in this case, and this makes the procedure through which the Bill was passed unconstitutional.
After submissions, Court adjourned the case for tomorrow July 31st at 9.30am.
- Uganda’s anti-gay law faces court challenge (March 11, 2014, 76crimes.com)
- Ugandans challenge anti-gay law (March 11, 2014, bbc.co.uk)
- Ugandan Constitutional Court Could Rule Thursday On Challenge To Anti-Homosexuality Act (July 30, 2014, BuzzFeed)
- Plaintiffs ready as Ugandan Court Hears Case on Constitutionality of the Anti-Homosexuality Act (July 30, 2014, O-blog-dee)