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Uganda court rules against activists who said official violated their rights

Friday, July 11, 2014
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KAMPALA, Uganda — A Uganda court on Wednesday ruled against a group of gay rights activists who sued a Ugandan official they say violated their rights.

Simon Lokodo

Simon Lokodo

Justice Stephen Musota ruled against four LGBT activists who had sued the ethics and integrity minister, Simon Lokodo, for shutting down a February 2012 workshop. Musota said the workshop participants were “promoting” or “inciting” same-sex acts.

“Carnal knowledge against the order of nature” is criminalized under Uganda’s Penal Code.

Musota rejected the activists’ argument that the purpose of the workshop was to develop human rights advocacy and leadership skills, finding that such objectives were simply a cover for promoting same-sex acts. The judge reasoned that human rights training on LGBT rights is itself a form of incitement to engage in prohibited same-sex practices.

The group Human Rights Watch called the court’s decision “deeply flawed” and said it violates the activists’ right to freedom of assembly.

“The deeply flawed High Court decision in this case sacrifices freedom of expression and assembly in the pursuit of a discriminatory political agenda,” said Neela Ghoshal, senior LGBT rights researcher at Human Rights Watch. “By the court’s logic, educating people about the law would incite them to commit crimes.”

Homosexuality is criminalized in Uganda, which in February passed a new law that strengthened penalties. Human rights groups are outraged the new law, which allows jail terms of up to life for gay sex.

The plaintiffs are appealing the ruling to the Appeals Court.

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