For Immediate Release
Roberta Sklar firstname.lastname@example.org
“What we have here is a humanitarian crisis.”
- Val Kalende, Ugandan LGBT rights activist
NEW YORK, June 25, 2012—Police raided a workshop for East African lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender (LGBT) rights activists being held in a suburb of Kampala, Uganda on June 18th. One day later, Rev. Fr. Simon Lokodo, Ugandan Minister of Ethics and Integrity announced his intention to “de-register ‘gay’ supporting organisations and others.” Ugandan human rights defenders and the International Gay and Lesbian Human Rights Commission (IGLHRC) reacted with outrage to the latest violation of the rights to assembly and expression for LGBT rights advocates.
East and Horn of Africa Human Rights Defenders Project (EHAHRDP) and other human rights organizations have reported that uniformed and plain-clothed police detained participants for several hours at the workshop venue and took six people into custody in a police bus for one hour. EHAHRDP also reported that police instructed the conference organizers to end the workshop, provide their organization’s registration information to the Regional Criminal Investigations Department, and alert police of future gatherings to prevent further interruption in what amounts to a violation of domestic law.
Lokodo issued a statement in defense of the raids, saying, “Police intervened in the meeting that was suspected to be promoting gay activities and questioned the participants who were later released.” Lokodo denied that any discrimination took place and encourages all Ugandans to “stay away from unlawful activities.”
The three-day workshop, organized by the EHAHRDP, marks the second time a gathering of LGBT activists has been shut down by Ugandan police this year. Today, members of the Civil Society Coalition on Human Rights and Constitutional Law had their first hearing in a lawsuit against Lokodo and Uganda’s Attorney General for the February 2012 closure of a LGBT rights workshop. According to a report from Freedom and Roam Uganda, the government had not submitted their files. The next hearing is scheduled for July 6th.
The actions of the Ugandan Police and threats by Lokodo have sparked an outrage among human rights advocates in Uganda and internationally. Adrian Jjuuko of the Human Rights Awareness and Promotion Forum Uganda said, “I believe it is the time we all took up the struggle and oppose this blatant abuse of rights.”
Val Kalende, Ugandan LGBT rights activist, said, “Fr. Lokodo's closure of two of our workshops is not just illegal, it's blatant misuse of power. Clearly, his actions are intended to draw attention to himself by terrorizing our community. The international community should not give credence to his statement. Violence against LGBTs in Uganda is real. What we have here is a humanitarian crisis! We need new approaches and broader support networks.”
Kasha Jacqueline, Executive Director of Freedom and Roam Uganda, who was leading the activist workshop that was shut down four months ago, said in a statement delivered to the UN Special Rapporteur on Peaceful Assembly and Association at the UN Human Rights Council on June 21st, “This has become a regrettable pattern around the world, as we have seen pride parades, peaceful demonstrations, and pro-human rights gatherings organized by LGBT organizations dispersed and organizers arbitrarily arrested.” Jacqueline issued a call to “all States to fulfill their human rights obligations” and for the “Council not to remain silent in the face of these repeated human rights violations.”
Nobel Peace Laureates Archbishop Desmond Tutu, Muhammad Yunus and Dr. Shiri Ebadi have also issued a statement regarding this incident.
Jessica Stern, Acting Executive Director of the International Gay and Lesbian Human Rights Commission (IGLHRC), said, “The harassment of human rights defenders committed to LGBT Ugandans can no longer be called anything less than systematic. However, in spite of Hon. Simon Lokodo's most recent attacks, the LGBT community in Uganda will prevail because his attacks only make them more resilient, smarter in their use of the law, stronger in the community they build, and increase their number of friends in every country of Africa and around the world.”