Uganda: Anti-Homosexuality Act death penalty case must be dropped


Uganda’s Anti-Homosexuality Act carries the death penalty for “aggravated homosexuality”

Amnesty International is urging Uganda’s Director of Public Prosecutions to immediately dismiss charges of “aggravated homosexuality” against a 20-year-old man.

The individual is one of the first Ugandans to be charged with the offence under the country’s invasive Anti-Homosexuality Act, which carries the death penalty.

According to the NGO Convening For Equality, the young man appeared in the Soroti Chief Magistrates Court on Friday and was remanded in custody. His next court appearance is scheduled for September 14.

“It is deeply disturbing that the Ugandan authorities are prosecuting people based on their real or perceived sexual orientation or gender identity,” commented Tigere Chagutah, Amnesty International’s Regional Director for East and Southern Africa. “Discrimination and persecution of LGBTI people in the country must be halted.”

Police conduct anal examination in an act of torture

Lawyers representing the accused told Amnesty International that Ugandan police officers arrested the 20-year-old, along with another individual aged 41, at Soroti Sports Ground in Soroti, eastern Uganda, on August 15.

The arrests occurred around midnight, and the individuals were taken to Soroti Central Police Station on allegations of engaging in sexual relations with a person of the same sex, an allegation the accused person denied. The lawyers reported that the police officers claimed to have found the two men partially undressed.

“Charging this individual with an offence that carries the death penalty based solely on his perceived sexual orientation is a flagrant violation of international law,” said Chagutah. “Uganda must not only repeal the Anti-Homosexuality Act but also ensure accountability for the ongoing violations against the LGBTI community in the country.”

On the same day as the arrest, the police released the 41-year-old man. The police stated that the older was unable to provide consent for sexual conduct due to his “mental status,” which led to the alleged offence being defined as “aggravated.”

A spokesperson from the Office of the DPP later clarified that the “victim was a 41-year-old male living with a disability.” Lawyers reported that the police did not provide any evidence to substantiate this assertion.

Additionally, the lawyers of the accused informed Amnesty International that the police conducted anal examinations on the alleged victim on August 16.

“Amnesty International vehemently opposes any form of anal examination to determine whether anyone has engaged in same-sex sexual relations. Such examinations violate the prohibition of torture and other ill-treatment under international law,” noted Chagutah.

A spike in violence and other violations against LGBTI+ people in Uganda

The Anti-Homosexuality Act, signed into law by President Yoweri Museveni in May, has sparked global outrage. It imposes severe penalties, including life imprisonment for participating in homosexual acts, the death penalty for “aggravated” homosexuality, and a 20-year prison sentence for advocating LGBTI+ rights.

A person can be charged with “aggravated homosexuality” if they are deemed “repeat offenders” or if found guilty of any one of several acts.

These include rape, engaging in sexual activity with a minor, transmitting HIV to another person, having sexual relations with someone with a disability or mental illness, or engaging in sexual activity with an elderly person or an individual under the influence of drugs or alcohol.

According to Uganda’s Human Rights Awareness and Promotion Forum, since the passing of the Anti-Homosexuality Act, at least five people have been charged with offences under the law. The NGO also recorded 149 cases of violence against LGBTI+ persons in June and July 2023, including evictions from homes, villages and rented homes, and actual or threatened violence.

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