Uganda is one of the top twelve most dangerous nations in the world for Lesbian Gay Bisexual and Transgender (“LGBT”) persons. Despite the Constitutional Court in Uganda nullifying the country’s the Anti-Homosexuality Act on August 1, 2014, the Ugandan government continues to violate the rights of LGBT persons.
On March 10, 2014, the Parliament of the Republic of Uganda enacted the Anti-Homosexuality Act. Parliament passed the act “to prohibit any form of sexual relations between persons of the same sex.” The Act punished acts of homosexuality with life imprisonment, and promoting homosexuality risked up to seven years in prison. However, on August 1, 2014, the Constitutional Court in Uganda nullified the Act on technical grounds, holding that the Ugandan Parliament failed to pass the Act with the required Parliamentary quorum. Although this was a victory to LGBT and human rights defenders, the court only nullified the act due to technicalities not on grounds of human rights violations. As Human Rights Watch reports, Uganda continues to violate the rights of LGBT persons and supporters. Even without the Anti-Homosexuality Act, Ugandan law enforcement has suppressed Ugandan LGBT communities and prohibits them from exercising their right to peacefully assemble by violently raiding LGBT gatherings.
The Ugandan government continues to violate the fundamental human right of LGBT persons to peacefully assemble. On August 4, 2016—the third night of Uganda’s LGBT Pride week—police raided a Pride event and brutally assaulted participants. The police arrested more than sixteen people and detained hundreds more. Witnesses reported that the police were assaulting, groping, and humiliating the detainees. The police also took photos of participants and threatened to publish those photos, which would make participants vulnerable to hate crimes. Authorities claimed the Pride event was unlawful because the organizers did not inform authorities of the event ahead of time, and that participants had held a gay wedding. Ugandans have said that instances of police brutality are common against peaceful organizations and are particularly frequent against gatherings centered around LGBT pride and support.
The Ugandan government’s attempts to prohibit LGBT advocacy through legislation and law enforcement are infringements on the rights of its LGBT community to peacefully assemble. Police brutality against the Ugandan LGBT community is in violation of the Treaty for the Establishment of the East African Community (“EAC”). Uganda and other east African partner states signed the EAC Treaty in 1999, and the treaty entered into force in July 2000.
The police brutality on August 4, 2016 violates Article 6(d), 7(2), and 8(1)(a) of the EAC Treaty. Article 6(d) states that the Partner States shall include “good governance including to the principles of democracy, the rule of law, accountability, transparency, social justice, equal opportunities, gender equality, as well as the promotion and protection of human and peoples rights in accordance with the provisions of the African Charter on Human and Peoples’ Rights.” Article 7(2) states that the Partner States “undertake to abide by the principles of good governance, including adherence to the principles of democracy, the rule of law, social justice and the maintenance of universally accepted standards of human rights.” The August 4, 2016 police raid violated both of these provisions because they violated Uganda’s accepted human rights in accordance with the African Charter on Human and Peoples’ Rights, which Articles 7(2) and 6(d) of the EAC Treaty legally require Uganda adhere to. Article 11 of the African Charter on Human and Peoples’ Rights states that every individual shall have the right to assemble freely with others. The routine police brutality against Uganda’s LGBT community thus violates both the EAC Treaty as well as accepted human rights law in Africa. Additionally, Article 8(1)(a) states that Partner States shall “plan and direct their policies and resources with a view to creating conditions favorable for the development and achievement of the objective of the Community and the implementation of the provisions of this Treaty.”
By allowing the police to violently disrupt the Ugandan LGBT community’s peaceful assembly, the Ugandan government violates both the EAC Treaty and well established human rights set out in the African Charter on Human and Peoples’ Rights. Instances such as these impact the LGBT Community and all the people of Uganda. If the Ugandan government permits its law enforcement to continue targeting the LGBT community, it will be violating the human rights that the Establishment of the East African Community treaty has required it to protect. These rights serve to promote all community engagement and to prevent the brutality that Ugandan police continue to commit against the LGBT community.