KAMPALA (IDN | GIN) – Police are resuming their attacks on Uganda's mostly underground LGBTI community – raiding nightclubs and making arrests.
The renewed police activity comes as gays and rights activists mark the day and month in which a law requiring homosexuals to be jailed for life was overturned.
During the latest crackdown on August 4, police unlawfully raided a pageant in Kampala’s Club Venom to crown Mr/Ms/Mx Uganda Pride, according to a release by a coalition of activist gay rights groups including Human Rights Watch.
Police claimed that they had been told a “gay wedding” was taking place and that the celebration was “unlawful” because police had not been informed of the event. However, police had been duly informed, and the prior two Pride events, on August 2 and 3, were conducted without incident.
“We strongly condemn these violations of Ugandans’ rights to peaceful association and assembly,” said Nicholas Opiyo, a human rights lawyer and executive director at Chapter Four Uganda. “These brutal actions by police are unacceptable and must face the full force of Ugandan law.”
The police locked the gates of the club, arrested more than 16 people – the majority of whom are Ugandan LGBT rights activists – and detained hundreds more for over 90 minutes, beating and humiliating people; taking pictures of lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and intersex (LGBTI) Ugandans and threatening to publish them; and confiscating cameras.
Witnesses reported that the police assaulted many participants, in particular transgender women and men, in some cases groping and fondling them. One person jumped from a sixth-floor window to avoid police abuse and was reported to be in a hospital in critical condition.
By approximately 1:20 a.m., all those arrested had been released without charge. This episode of police brutality did not happen in isolation, the groups said. It comes at a time of escalating police violence targeting media, independent organizations, and the political opposition.
“Any force by Ugandan police targeting a peaceful and lawful assembly is outrageous,” said Frank Mugisha, executive director of Sexual Minorities Uganda (SMUG), who was among those arrested. “The LGBTI community stands with all Ugandan civil society movements against police brutality.”
“The Ugandan government should condemn violent illegal actions by police targeting the LGBTI community and all Ugandans,” said Asia Russell at Health GAP. “The US and all governments should challenge President Museveni to intervene immediately and hold his police force accountable.”
“Celebrating with LGBTI people and demonstrating solidarity in calling for their rights to be respected is as basic a show of free expression and association under human rights law as you can get,” said Maria Burnett, senior Africa researcher at Human Rights Watch.
“Ugandan authorities should not only refrain from trying to stop such activities, but they have binding legal obligations to ensure others do not interfere in this fundamental exercise of basic rights,” Burnett added. [IDN-InDepthNews – 09 August 2016]
Photo: The venue for Uganda’s Pride 2016 pageant that police raided on August 4, 2016. © Edward Echwalu. 2016 Source: HRW
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