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Police in Uganda raid workshop on gay rights, arrest LGBT activists

Monday, June 18, 2012
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Police in Kampala, Uganda on Monday raided a gay rights meeting and arrested several LGBT activists gathered at the Essela Hotel in Najjeera, a Kampala suburb, accusing the participants of “propagating gay issues in Uganda.”

East and Horn of Africa Human Rights Defenders Project, the organization behind the workshop, said that police interrupted the meeting and began questioning attendees at the event, including activists from Canada, Kenya, Tanzania and Rwanda.

At least five staff of the EHAHRDP were detained by the police along with at least 12 of the workshop participants, according to a statement released by Amnesty International. Some of the participants were able to escape after being informed by members of the media that the police were on their way.

“This ludicrous and senseless harassment of human rights activists has no basis in law whatsoever and has to stop,” said Michelle Kagari, Amnesty International’s deputy director for Africa.

“We are seeing a worrying pattern emerging whereby the Ugandan authorities engage in arbitrary activities deliberately designed to intimidate and threaten legitimate human rights work. The participants in this workshop had done absolutely nothing wrong and we call on the police to end this outrageous behavior which makes a mockery of Uganda’s human rights obligations.”

This is the second time an LGBT gathering of this nature has been raided in Uganda this year. The first incident occurred in February when the Minister of Ethics, Simon Lokodo, shut down a gay rights meeting in the town of Entebbe.

As there is currently no law in Uganda to prevent such a meeting, activists are calling the police action unlawful.

Currently there is a bill which has languished a few times in the Ugandan parliament, known as “The Anti-homosexuality Bill” — dubbed the “Kill the Gays Bill” — which, if passed, would make it unlawful to “promote” homosexuality.”

But the bill, introduced by anti-gay MP David Bahati, is still in committee and has yet to see passage.

Currently the law against homosexuality in Uganda emanates from the interpretation of statute that refers to “crimes against the order of nature” which in some interpretations includes homosexual acts.

LGBT activists said having a meeting about LGBT rights hardly fits that description.

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