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CIVIL SOCIETY COALITION ON HUMAN RIGHTS AND CONSTITUTIONAL LAW RELEASES STATEMENT CONDEMNING UNLAWFUL RAID ON PRIDE

coalOn the night of 4th August, the Ugandan Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender and Intersex (LGBTI) community turned up in large numbers to witness the long awaited Mr and Ms Pride beauty contest.

The magnificent event quickly took a bad turn when Uganda Police stormed the venue. The police manhandled attendees, organizers and contestants. Transwomen were sexually assaulted as police officers touched their privates to establish their sex, the transwomen literally plucked their weaves and braids off their heads, the police snatched cameras and phones from people that attempted to record what was happening and guns were pointed in people’s faces for no legitimate reason.

Several activists and members of the community were arrested and later released with no charges. Some of the arrested were tortured by inmates as officers offered a deaf ear to the ongoing anguish in  the cells. Pride was cancelled as Minister of Ethics and Integrity Father Simon Lokodo threatened to organize mobs and more forces to attack anyone who was brave enough to participate in any of the pride events that had been organized.

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The Minister even issued a press release, one that was later echoed by Police denying harming anyone during the raid and distorting the events of that traumatic night. It is therefore upon this background that the Civil Society Coalition on Human Rights and Constitutional Law (CSCHRCL) released a  press statement condemning the brutal actions of Uganda Police during the raid on the MR and Ms pride Beauty Pageant on 4th August  2016.

The coalition regarded these actions as illegal and unconstitutional since they violate the basic rights of equality, privacy, freedom from inhuman and degrading treatment and freedom of assembly, expression and association; rights that are protected by the constitution of Uganda.

The statement was also meant to notify the public that the Ethics and Integrity Minister’s utterances of mobilizing the mob to attack LGBTI people was unlawful and was categorically regarded as hate speech that puts LGBTI persons at a risk of further attacks.

The coalition also noted that this kind of display of police brutality is not isolated and comes at a time of escalating violence by police targeting media, civil society, and political opposition.

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Through the press release, the Coalition called upon the Uganda Police, the Minister of Ethics and Integrity and the government as a whole to;

  1. Protect the rights of all people  including  LGBTI persons as enshrined in the Uganda constitution and in international instruments to which Ugandan is a signatory
  1. Publicly apologize for the unprofessional and unlawful conduct of its police officers in illegally stopping the event, and subjecting participants to inhumane and degrading treatment.
  1. Restrain government representatives especially the minister of Ethics and Integrity from advocating  unlawful acts, namely mob  violence targeting  LGBTI persons, and from uttering hate speech  against LGBTI communities , thereby dehumanizing these groups  and rendering  them more vulnerable  to abuse and  the violation of their rights.
  1. To assure LGBTI Ugandans of the protection of their rights  and freedom as full and equal citizens of Uganda
  1. To carry out and independent investigation into the actions of the police and discipline those responsible.

During the press conference, some members of the LGBTI community that wre subjected to the police brutality narrated their troubling experiences of torture in the police cells.

Background:

The coalition was established in October 2009 in response to the tabling of Anti-Homosexuality Bill in Parliament by David Bahati. Then hosted by the Refugee Law Project, the Coalition fought this bill until it was annulled by the constitutional court on August 1st 2014. It is now hosted by Human Rights Awareness and Promotion Forum (HRAPF) an organization that offers free legal services to sexual minorities and other marginalized communities in Uganda.

PRESS STATEMENT

For Immediate Release: August 16th 2016

THE GOVERNMENT ACTED UNCONSTITUTIONALLY IN STOPPING LGBTI  PRIDE ACTIVITIES

(Kampala) The Civil Society Coalition on Human Rights and Constitutional Law (the Coalition) condemns the Uganda Police Force’s actions on the evening of 4th August, when  they  brutally  and  unlawfully  stopped  an  LGBTI  Beauty  pageant,  harassed participants  and  arrested  16  persons  including  human  rights  defenders.

The  more than  200  attendees  were  locked  inside  the  venue  for  over  an  hour  while  the  Police confiscated some people’s phones and forced others to sit on the floor. Some of the participants were grouped by Police officers, had their hair pulled, and the Police took some  of  their  pictures  without  their  consent  and threatened  to  release  identifying information to the public.

A participant jumped from a 4-storey window to avoid police abuse  and  he  suffered  a  fractured  spine  and  needs  expensive  surgery.  Many participants were beaten.  They were later left to go but not before 16 people who included activists, organisers and participants were arrested, dumped on police trucks and taken to Kabalagala Police Station. While at the station, two transmen and one transwoman were subjected to humiliating and degrading treatment when they were groped and strip searched by policemen.

They were also beaten by the Police and other inmates. The 16 were later released without charge after being cautioned. When breaking up the beauty event.  Subsequent misleading statements by Minister of Ethics and Integrity Hon. Simon Lokodo and ACP Polly Namaye to attempt to justify the violent actions by the Police have described LGBTI Pride celebrations as ‘criminal.’ We  are  appalled  by  utterances  by  the  Minister  of  Ethics and  Integrity,  Hon. Simon Lokodo  that  he  would  call  upon  Ugandans  to  commit  unlawful  acts,  namely  that  he would  mobilise  mobs  to  attack  LGBTI  persons.

This amounts to  hate  speech  as  it puts LGBTI persons at the risk of being attacked by mobs. It is the solemn obligation of  all  Ugandans,  but  in  particular  government  organs,  to  uphold  the  law.  It  is  the height of irony that a Minister of Ethics and Integrity would foment the commission of unlawful acts —the ultimate expression of unethical behaviour.

The  Coalition  regards  the  brutal  acts  of  the  Police  as illegal  and  unconstitutional  as they  violate  the  basic  rights   to   equality,   privacy,  freedom  from  inhuman  and degrading  treatment  and  freedom  of  assembly,  expression and  association  all  of which are protected by the Constitution of Uganda. The Coalition also notes that this display of police brutality is not isolated—it comes at a time of escalating violence by police targeting media, civil society, and political op position.

We  therefore  call  upon  the  Uganda  Police,  the  Minister of  Ethics  and  Integrity  and the government as a whole to:

  1. Protect the rights  of  all people,  including LGBTI persons as  enshrined  in  the Ugandan  Constitution  and  in  international  instruments to  which  Uganda  is  a signatory
  2. Publicly apologise  for  the  unprofessional  and  unlawful conduct  of  its  police officers   in   illegally   stopping   the   event,   and   subjecting   participants   to inhumane and degrading treatment
  3. Restrain government  representatives  especially  the  Minister  of  Ethics  and Integrity from advocating unlawful acts, namely mob violence targeting LGBTI persons, and from uttering hate speech against LGBTI communities, thereby dehumanising  these  groups  and  rendering  them  more  vulnerable  to  abuse and the violation of their rights
  4. To assure LGBTI Ugandans of the protection of their rights and freedoms as full and equal citizens of Uganda
  5. To carry  out  an  independent  investigation  into  the  acti ons  of  the  police  and discipline those responsible.

For more information contact:

Adrian Jjuuko, Coordinator, Civil Society Coalition on Human Rights and Constitutional Law (CSCHRCL), Tel: +256 782 169505 and [email protected]


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