The Centre for Applied Legal Studies (CALS), based at Wits University in Johannesburg, is seeking to intervene in the ongoing litigation around Uganda’s Anti-Homosexuality Act.
CALS, represented by the Women’s Probono Initiative in Uganda, has applied to be admitted as a “friend of the court” in a case challenging the act, currently before the Constitutional Court of Uganda.
“Our main goal is to provide expertise; research; and international, regional and comparative perspectives to assist the court in deciding this important case,” said CALS in a statement.
The Anti-Homosexuality Act, which has been condemned around the globe, imposes severe penalties, including life imprisonment for engaging in homosexual acts, the death penalty for “aggravated” homosexuality, and a 20-year prison sentence for advocating LGBTQ+ rights.
CALS argues that the enactment of the legislation in May has profound implications for human rights and the principle of meaningful public participation in decision-making processes, a principle deeply rooted in international law.
This is one of the key complaints against the passage of the law by human rights groups who argue that the law was “fast-tracked” by parliament without due process. At no point, for example, was the LGBTIQ+ community in Uganda, the group most impacted by the act, asked or allowed to present its views and input in the legislative process.
CALS points out that Uganda is a signatory to international agreements, such as the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, which emphasise the importance of meaningful public participation in democratic governance.
CALS asserts that Uganda’s commitment to these international standards should reflect its dedication to upholding human rights, including the rights of citizens to participate actively in the conduct of public affairs.
It further notes that the Ugandan Constitution itself upholds the importance of public participation at various levels of governance. Articles 38, 41, 28, and 36 provide citizens with the right to participate in government affairs, access information, express their views, and ensure that minority interests are taken into account in decision-making processes.
CALS further cites relevant case law and practices from the global south, including South Africa and Kenya, to demonstrate how meaningful public participation is essential to good governance, the protection of human dignity, and the fair treatment of vulnerable communities.
In addition, the East African Court of Justice has also recognised the importance of this principle in the context of the East African Community.
“CALS’ decades-long experience in navigating public interest matters and providing legal insights in numerous landmark cases underscores our commitment to promoting justice and human rights, not only in South Africa but across the global south,” says Basetsana Koitsioe, attorney at CALS.
“Our organisation firmly believes that meaningful public participation is a cornerstone of a just and democratic society,” adds Koitsioe.
CALS expects to hear in early November if its application to be admitted to the case is successful.