7 years of delay stymie Ugandan anti-bias lawsuit

Justice Steven Kavuma of the Ugandan Constitutional Court.
Justice Steven Kavuma of the Ugandan Constitutional Court.

Uganda’s Constitutional Court has once again failed to act on a challenge to the law that prevents the country’s Equal Opportunities Commission from fulfilling its responsibility for protecting marginalized people from discrimination.

That law prohibits the commission from acting on behalf of the most marginalized Ugandans, those who behave in ways that the Ugandan majority considers “unacceptable” or “immoral and socially harmful.”  In the Ugandan society of today, LGBTI people are among those most stigmatized minorities.

HRAPF logo
HRAPF logo

On July 8, the Constitutional Court was scheduled to hear the challenge, but it failed to do so — a failure that has continued for seven years. The challenge to the discriminatory provision of the Equal Opportunities Commission Act of 2007 was filed Jan. 5, 2009.

The Human Rights Awareness and Promotion Forum (HRAPF), the challengers in the case, issued a press release that stated, in part:

“The case was first heard on 3rd October 2011 after a delay of almost two years, which was caused by the lack of quorum.  Since then, the court has proven unable to write a judgment despite reminders from the petitioner, petitioner’s counsel and civil society organisations.  Finally, an application for rehearing was filed and the court decided to rehear the petition since some of the judges who heard the initial petition have since retired.

“The court first set the rehearing date as 1st June 2015.  On that day, the court failed to realise quorum and the petition was not heard, but instead moved to 8th July 2015.  Still, the court could not raise quorum, and indicated that they would instead hear the petition in September, but did not fix a specific date for that hearing.”

Adrian Jjuuko, executive director of HRAPF, protested:

“We have waited patiently for seven years, and we are tired.  The inability of Court to raise quorum means that Ugandans affected by this case, as well as many other critical cases filed in the public interest, cannot access justice. The Constitution requires the court to give priority to Constitutional Cases and this perhaps places the Constitutional Court itself in violation of the Constitution.  This should change.”

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 [email protected]


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