Suspects detained at a gay-friendly bar in Uganda (Screenshot: NTVUganda)
Sixty-seven of the around 120 people arrested at a popular gay-friendly bar in Uganda have been formally charged.
Police claimed that Sunday’s raid, which included armed military personnel, on the Ram Bar in Kampala was to stamp out drug use but activists believe that it was to target and harass the LGBTIQ community.
According to Sexual Minorities Uganda (SMUG), 53 people have since been released and all charges against them have been dropped.
The remaining 67 appeared in court and have been charged with “public nuisance”, which could result in up to a year in jail. At the time of writing, they were still being held in a maximum-security prison in the suburb of Luzira.
“As soon as we got into Ram bar at around 11:30pm, we saw police swamp the place and ordered us to all sit down,” recounted Sonia, one of those arrested who has since been released without charge.
“Not knowing what we had done wrong, I asked and I got slapped for it. Later, we were all told to go on the patrol trucks and we were driven to Central Police Station (CPS) with no knowledge of what we had done… At CPS, some of my friends were treated inhumanely just for asking the same question I was slapped for asking.”
Hamimah Minah Namuddu, an exiled Ugandan lesbian, decried the arrests and said they show “that the anti-LGBTIQ Ugandan regime is willing to bend all the laws of the land to fit their persecution and torture of LGBTIQ people in Uganda.”
The suspects in court (Pic: supplied)
Since 2012, police have raided at least six LGBTIQ events in Uganda, the most recent occurring on 17 May when police shut down an event organised by SMUG and Chapter Four Uganda to celebrate the International Day Against Homophobia and Transphobia (IDAHOT).
“I think the police is using the Sunday night illegal raid on Ram Bar and the arrest of LGBTIQ patrons to try and divert the country from the police and army’s brutal crackdown on the Makerere University protesters and journalists,” said Byarugaba Clare of Chapter Four Uganda.
The organisations have called on the attorney general to drop “all the trumped-up charges.”
Brutal attacks on LGBTIQ people have increased since the Minister of Ethics and Integrity, Simon Lokodo, recently announced plans to retable the Anti-Homosexuality Bill. This statement was supported by Uganda’s Minister for Security, General Elly Tumwiine, who said LGBTIQ people are terrorists
Activists say there has been a spate of violent homophobic and transphobic attacks and murders this year. Last month, also in Kampala, police arrested 16 LGBTIQ activists on homosexuality charges and forced them to undergo anal exams.
Under colonial-era legislation criminalising gay sex in Uganda, those found guilty of homosexuality face life in prison.