STRATEGIC LITIGATION

Covid Exploited to Target LGBTQ+ Ugandans

UgandaLGBTQ+ Rights

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LGBTQ+ Discrimination in Uganda Persists

The deadly COVID-19 pandemic has been politicized across the world. In Uganda, supposed protectionary measures to combat the virus have been used to target LGBTQ+ individuals.

On March 29, 2020, the mayor of Nsangi Town Council and the Uganda Police Force raided well-known LGBTQ+ shelter Children of the Sun Foundation in Kyengera Town Council, arresting and detaining 23 individuals. Although they were in complete compliance, authorities stated they were violating COVID-19 stay-at-home orders and social distancing measures, fraudulently justifying the detentions.

After the group was held in custody for one night, the police released four people on March 30 on health grounds. The remaining 19 individuals were routinely denied access to their lawyers and remained detained until May 19, when they were released thanks to intervention from RFK Human Rights and partner organizations.

Due to their orientation and a rampant anti-LGBTQ+ culture in Uganda, the 19 were subject to a threat of violence while detained—and also to a greater risk of COVID-19, especially the three individuals who were HIV positive and may have become immunocompromised due to a lack of antiretroviral treatment.

Why Is This a Key Case?

Unrelenting anti-LGBTQ+ discrimination and violence in Uganda and throughout Africa creates a disenfranchised homeless population that requires such shelters as Children of the Sun. The government has denied rumors that it plans to reintroduce infamous colonial-era “Kill the Gays” legislation that imposes the death penalty on homosexuals, a version of which was struck down by Ugandan courts in 2014. Despite that, some Ugandan legislators have pushed for its reinstatement in order to curb the “promotion” of “unnatural sex.”

How Did RFK Human Rights Support The Individuals' Case?

Alongside partner organizations Human Rights Awareness and Promotion Forum and Sexual Minorities Uganda, RFK Human Rights filed a petition before the U.N. Working Group on Arbitrary Detention on May 14, 2020. In it, the organizations initiated a formal complaint procedure against the government of Uganda and detailed multiple violations of Uganda’s binding international human rights obligations.

What is the Status of the Case?

The remaining 19 individuals were released on May 19, 2020. The U.N. Working Group on Arbitrary Detention published its opinion on the case in September 2021. In its decision, it found the detention of the 19 individuals to be arbitrary, requesting that the government ensure a full and independent investigation of the circumstances surrounding their arbitrary detention and take appropriate measures against those responsible for the violation of their rights. Finally, it urged the government to bring its laws into conformity with international human rights law.

The decision is a victory for human rights and inclusion. It comes at a critical time as the Ugandan parliament reconsiders the Sexual Offences Act which was rightly denied assent by President Museveni in August 2021. By this decision, the UNWGAD makes clear that authorities in Uganda must ensure that all acts of government, including laws, respect the rights of all Ugandans, including the LGBTQ+ community.

Name of the case (as it appears in the respective legal mechanism)

[Redacted] v. Government of the Republic of Uganda


Month/Year of filing

2020


Legal mechanism in which the case is being litigated

United Nations Working Group on Arbitrary Detention


Rights and legal instruments alleged violated (OR found to have been violated)

  • The detention of these 19 individuals was alleged to constitute an arbitrary deprivation of their liberty under Category I, Category III, and Category V as set forth by the Working Group.

  • The detention was alleged to be arbitrary under Category I for the violation of Article 9(1) of the ICCPR.

  • The detention was alleged to be arbitrary under Category III for violations of rights recognized under Article 14 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR) and under Section 28(d) of the Ugandan Constitution.

  • The detention was alleged to be arbitrary under Category V, in violation of Article 26 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR) and Article 21 of the Ugandan Constitution.


Procedural stage

Filed a petition before the U.N. Working Group on Arbitrary Detention on May 15, 2020. The remaining 19 individuals were released on May 19.

Case Partners

Human Rights Awareness and Promotion Forum

We partnered to file a petition before the U.N. Working Group on Arbitrary Detention on behalf of 19 LGBTQ+ Ugandans, who were ​​arrested and detained after authorities falsely claimed they were violating COVID-19 stay-at-home orders.

hrapf.org

Sexual Minorities Uganda

We partnered to file a petition before the U.N. Working Group on Arbitrary Detention on behalf of 19 LGBTQ+ Ugandans, who were ​​arrested and detained after authorities falsely claimed they were violating COVID-19 stay-at-home orders.

sexualminoritiesuganda.com

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