Uganda Pride 2016 Postponed After Police Harass and Detain Participants

“Again and again, Ugandan authorities show that they have no regard for basic human rights of LGBTIQ people and that they will even violate the Ugandan constitution in order to stop LGBTIQ people from exercising those basic rights.” - Maria Sjodin, Deputy Executive Director, OutRight Action International.

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Uganda Pride 2016

On August 4th Ugandan police forces raided the 2016 Uganda Pride, forcefully arrested prominent human rights activist Dr. Frank Mugisha and Pepe Julian Onziema, leaders of Sexual Minorities Uganda, among countless others. Activists and individuals took to social media to report incidents of police brutality and misconduct. Kasha Jacqueline tweeted, “Our pride event has been raided by police, arrests made. People beaten up, 1 in critical condition who jumped off building to avoid arrest. SOB’.

Today, Kuchu Times reported,

“The Police who were in the company of plain clothed  officers started pin pointing at whichever two men they saw together and also picked out the transgender individuals. It was a heartbreaking sight as they searched and sexually assaulted transgender persons by touching their genitals and breasts to “determine” whether they were male or female. Many trans women threw their wigs away and plucked out their braids to avoid being identified and harassed.”

In addition to unlawful and arbitrary arrests, and harassment of the crowd, police called in the media to take photos of everyone at the event without individual consent, violating their privacy and putting individuals in danger should those photos be leaked to the public. This would not be the first time that the media had free reign to “out” LGBTIQ individuals and expose them to harm.

The police cited the raid and arrests to a breach of the Public Order Management Act, which requires organizations to obtain permission to hold a meeting of more than 3 people in public. However organizers of the event assert that they had indeed attained permission prior to the celebrations. While this Act grants authorities to regulate and stop public meetings which go against the law, they are meant to do so with “regard to the rights and freedoms of the persons in respect of whom the order has been issued and the rights and freedoms of other persons.” Officers acted with no regard for the rights and freedoms of any individual they were in contact with and instead treated participants with disrespect and aggression.

Yesterday’s events directly contradict Uganda’s Constitution Articles 21, 23 and 29, which enshrine principles of equality and freedom from discrimination, the protection of personal liberty, including the direction that “a person arrested, restricted or detained shall be informed immediately, in a language that the person understands, of the reasons for the arrest, restriction or detention of his or her right to a lawyer of his or her choice,” and the protection of freedom of conscience, expression, movement, religion and assembly and association. Rights also enshrined in the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, to which Uganda is a signatory.

OutRight’s Deputy Executive Director comments:

Again and again, Ugandan authorities show that they have no regard for basic human rights of LGBTIQ people and that they will even violate the Ugandan constitution in order to stop LGBTIQ people from exercising those basic rights. The assault on the community, and especially the physical violence against trans people is appalling. The US government and others with embassies in Kampala must continue to monitor the situation, their presence can make pride events safer and is a concrete way of supporting the targeted minority.

We stand in solidarity with the courageous Ugandan LGBTIQ community who have again been the target of violence.

Uganda Pride have postponed remaining events for the time being, after the Minister of Ethics has threatened to stop any events from happening, even going as far as saying he would call for the public to use violence in order to stop events from continuing.

“While the Minister of Ethics vow to stop us, we in the LGBTIQ community know that we must continue to fight for our rights. Basic human rights like freedom of assembly, freedom of association belong to us as well, and yes, so does the right to celebrate during Pride week. Police had no right to stop an event in a private club and to brutally assault the attendees. We need the world to speak up,” declared Kasha Jacqueline today.