Uganda: Charges dismissed against 42 arrested at LGBTQ shelter

A Ugandan judge dismissed charges yesterday against 42 people who were arrested in May at an LGBTQ shelter during a police raid on what initially was thought to be a “gay wedding”.

Arrestees at the Happy Family youth shelter on May 31 were forced to sit on the floor. (Photo courtesy of Nile Post) (Arrestees’ faces are blurred for their safety.)

After Kampala police realized that no “gay wedding” was being held at the Happy Family youth shelter, they charged the arrestees with violating regulations to control the spread of Covid-19. However, as months passed, the prosecution failed to produce witnesses against them in court.

Human rights activists have urged the LGBTQ community to abide by Covid-19 regulations so law enforcement officials in Uganda cannot those regulations as an excuse for making  homophobic arrests,

Yesterday the gay-friendly legal aid agency Human Rights Awareness and Promotion Forum (HRAPF) announced:

“The charges against the 42 out of the 44 persons who were charged with doing a negligent act likely to spread infection of a disease have been dismissed!!!

“Congratulations to our clients and we thank all our partners and allies for the support.”

The status of the remaining two arrestees was unclear.

The African Human Rights Coalition and the O-blog-dee blog reported:

Ugandan magistrate dismisses anti-gay Covid case

The criminal case in Uganda, involving Happy Family Shelter, where 44 people were arrested, has concluded with a dismissal. While the charges were COVID-19-related, it is believed the venue was targeted and raided because the shelter was believed to be one that housed LGBTI people.

The charges against 42 out of 44 persons, who were charged with ‘doing a negligent act likely to spread infection of disease’ contrary to section 171 of the Penal Code Act, were dismissed.

The raid took place on 31st May 2021 at Happy Family Shelter was located in Nansana, Wakiso District, with allegations that a ‘gay wedding’ was taking place. The group was remanded to Kitalya Prison and finally released on bail on 4th June 2021.

The case came up for hearing [Sept. 23] at Nansana Magistrates Court.

The 42 were represented by Mr. Edward Ssemambo, of Human Rights Awareness and Promotion Forum (HRAPF). The State Attorney did not have any witnesses present and asked for an adjournment in order to find the witnesses.

Mr. Ssemambo requested a dismissal of the case for want of prosecution under section 119 of the Magistrates Courts Act since the matter has been pending since June and the prosecution had had enough time to present its witnesses. This was the second time the case was remanded for hearing.

After listening to both parties, the Magistrate then made a ruling dismissing the charges against the 42 and declared them free of the charges and discharged the sureties from their obligations.

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, Erasing 76 Crimes. Contact him at [email protected]


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  1. As long as not all 44 are released there is no satisfaction possible, none of the arrested persons were guilty of the accusations brought forward, and thus all MUST be released!
    Furthermore, ALL forms of registration must be removed from ALL files and records!
    And, the anti-gay attitude of the police MUST be changed, by law, and those who arrested these people must be prosecuted for hate-crimes, and brought to trial!
    It is unacceptable that in the 21st century people who are accused of being homosexual are prosecuted for what they are, and it is unacceptable that in the 21st century a country (like Uganda) is having legislation that supports and even enforces laws that are enabling police forces to practice hate-crimes and at the same time receives aid from international organisations and governments!
    I support the demand that as long as a country has laws and regulations that enable police forces to commit hate-crimes will be removed from receiving international aid, from NGOs and governments!
    Officials of such countries must be refused visa and or entry to meetings and gatherings on an international level, en when officials of such countries arrive at a civilsied country, they should be arrested for committing hate-crimes!
    I feel that we should create lists of individuals who commit hate-crimes, as we have reached a point were such individuals should be publicly shamed and prevented from living an easy life, they destroy knowingly and willingly other people’s lifes, simply because these love another person!

    Love Is Love, and also the Uganda officials should acknowledge the fact that we are no longer living in the Stone Age, and that humanity has evolved!

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