On 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.
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.
Through the press release, the Coalition called upon the Uganda Police, the Minister of Ethics and Integrity and the government as a whole to;
- 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
- 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.
- 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.
- To assure LGBTI Ugandans of the protection of their rights and freedom as full and equal citizens of Uganda
- 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.
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.
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:
- 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
- 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
- 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
- To assure LGBTI Ugandans of the protection of their rights and freedoms as full and equal citizens of Uganda
- 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 firstname.lastname@example.org