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Uganda may drop execution from anti-gay bill, denies Western pressure

Thursday, December 24, 2009

Uganda ProtestUganda has signaled plans to soften its proposed anti-gay legislation, but the government denied on Wednesday that it was bowing to an outcry in the West over a controversial bill that could have seen homosexuals put to death, reports Reuters.

Ethics and Integrity Minister Nsaba Buturo told Reuters the revised law would now probably limit the maximum penalty for offenders to life in prison rather than execution.

Earlier this week, U.S. officials received assurances from the Ugandan president that he would work to block the anti-gay bill from becoming law, and would veto the legislation should it come to his desk.

Jon Tollefson, a State Department spokesperson, told DC Agenda that Ugandan President Yoweri Museveni has pledged on several occasions to the top U.S. diplomat engaged in Africa that he would stop progress on the anti-gay bill.

Debate on the bill, which is now before a parliamentary committee, is scheduled to begin early next year when members of parliament return from their Christmas holiday.

Speaking on the subject last week, Secretary of State Hilary Clinton told an audience at Georgetown University, “We have expressed our concerns directly, indirectly, and we will continue to do so. The bill has not gone through the Ugandan legislature, but it has a lot of public support by various groups, including religious leaders in Uganda. And we view it as a very serious potential violation of human rights.”

Other Western leaders, including British Prime Minister Gordon Brown, have urged President Yoweri Museveni to consider the dangers the proposals could pose to Uganda’s rights record.

On Wednesday, five Republican Executive Committee members of the Tom Lantos Human Rights Commission in the U.S. House of Representatives, sent a letter to Museveni, urging him to to reject the anti-gay bill.

Earlier this month, the European Parliament, meeting in Strasbourg, France, adopted a resolution condemning Uganda’s proposed Anti-Homosexuality legislation, and Sweden threatened to withdraw the £31m of aid it gives to Uganda each year if the proposal becomes law.

Under the original proposal “serial offenders”, and those who commit “aggravated homosexuality”, faced a death sentence.

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