Uganda | Concern after a decision confirming an anti-LGBT+ law

(Kampala) Human rights organizations and Western chancelleries have expressed their concern after the decision on Wednesday of the Ugandan Constitutional Court to reject a request to annul the anti-LGBT+ law passed last year, considered one of the most repressive in the world.


Called “anti-homosexuality law 2023”, the text provides for heavy penalties for people having homosexual relations and “promoting” homosexuality. An offense of “aggravated homosexuality” is punishable by the death penalty, a sentence which has, however, not been applied for years in Uganda.

Since its vote in March 2023, followed by its promulgation in May by President Yoweri Museveni, this law has been criticized by members of the LGBT+ community, human rights NGOs, Western governments and international institutions.

On Wednesday, the text was confirmed by the Constitutional Court, which had been seized by Ugandan human rights activists, two law professors and two parliamentarians from the ruling party (National Resistance Movement, MNR).

“We refuse to strike down the anti-homosexuality law in its entirety, nor will we grant a permanent injunction against its implementation,” Justice Richard Buteera said.

The five constitutional magistrates, however, removed provisions that they considered incompatible with international conventions, such as penalizing the failure to denounce homosexual acts.

Washington, through State Department spokesperson Matthew Miller, said this decision “is part of a broader degradation of human rights protections that endangers everyone in Uganda and undermines the reputation of the country.

“We will continue to take all appropriate measures,” he added, referring to sanctions already imposed by the US administration restricting the granting of visas to certain Ugandan officials and withdrawing Uganda from the trade agreement the African Growth and Opportunity Act (AGOA).

The head of British diplomacy David Cameron also said he was “deeply concerned that Uganda continues to roll back human rights”, in a message on X.

“Missed opportunity”

The applicants had not communicated on Wednesday evening about a possible referral to the Supreme Court, after this judgment described as “summary” by lawyer Nicholas Opiyo, who defended the appeal.

Amnesty International regretted a “missed opportunity” to invalidate a “ruthless” text which, according to the NGO, “triggered an increase in attacks against LGBT+ people” in the country.

“We are dismayed to see that the Court has turned its back on its responsibility to fully respect the Ugandan Constitution which protects the human rights of all,” lamented the director of Amnesty International for Africa in a press release. East and Southern Africa, Tigere Chagutah.

“This decision is disappointing and represents a missed opportunity to protect fundamental human rights,” said Oryem Nyeko, Uganda researcher for Human Rights Watch.

The United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights, Volker Türk, once again called in a statement on the Ugandan government to “repeal in its entirety” the text, which he had described last year as “probably the worst in the world of its kind.”

Sanctions

This law enjoys broad support in Uganda, a country with a conservative Christian majority, where parliamentarians believe it constitutes a necessary bulwark against the alleged immorality of the West.

The Speaker of Parliament, Anita Among, described the decision as a “great achievement” which “proves that all branches of government, parliament, the executive and the judiciary, have a common goal: to protect Uganda against any foreign influence negative”.

President Yoweri Museveni, who has ruled the country with an iron fist since 1986, has promised not to give in to Western pressure which has increased over the past year.

The United States, the European Union and UN Secretary Antonio Guterres have warned that foreign aid and investment in the country could be jeopardized if the text stands.

In addition to the US sanctions, the World Bank also announced in August that it was suspending all new loans to the country due to this legislation “fundamentally contrary” to its values.

Homosexuality is illegal in many East African countries, where campaigns of repression and stigmatization are encouraged by Muslim and Christian religious conservatives.


reference: www.lapresse.ca

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