44 Arrested at Shelter in Uganda Under Suspicion of Being LGBTQI with forced Anal Exams
Below is the Report and request for assistance from the Human Rights Legal Team in Uganda. It is our belief at African Human Rights Coalition that this group was targeted under suspicion that it is a shelter for homeless LGBTQI youth. In typical fashion the Ugandan Government, when it cannot make use of its direct anti-homosexuality Penal Codes, will use laws in a persecutory fashion under the false notion that it can ‘eradicate homosexuality from Uganda.’
The Report June 01, 2021:
On Monday the 31st of May 2021, police officers raided the shelter of Happy Family Youth Uganda Limited located in Nansana Municipality, Wakiso District. At the time of the raid, there was a party going on. They arrested a total of 44 persons who were attending the party and detained them at Nansana Police Station and at Lubigi Police Post.
Statements made by the KMP Spokesperson Luke Owoyesigire in the media suggest that the raid was prompted by reports from locals that a gay wedding was taking place at that venue.
42 of those arrested were arraigned before the Nansana Magistrates Court today (Tuesday 1st June 2021) at about 5.30pm. The official charge is doing a negligent act likely to spread infection of disease contrary to section 171 of the Penal Code Act. They all pleaded Not Guilty and were remanded. Because it was late in the evening, they were not allowed to apply for bail. The bail hearing has instead been scheduled for tomorrow 2nd June at 9am. All are being held overnight at the police station pending the bail hearing.
The detainees have made allegations of torture by police officers but these are yet to be verified. What is clear is that at least 17 persons who were in detention at Nansana Police Station were subjected to anal examinations without their consent. This is despite assurances to the lawyers and activists by the stations’ leadership and senior officials from the Police that this would not happen, as the circumstances did not warrant anal examinations.
HRAPF, SMUG, and other partners as well as community paralegals are working hard to ensure that the at least 84 sureties usually required are available tomorrow at court by 9am. At this stage we still need about 42 more people to be available to stand surety. Getting sureties is usually the most complicated part of such cases of mass arrests. We encourage persons who can obtain Local Council letters confirming their residences and copies of their national IDs as well as the original ID to come to Nansana Court tomorrow by 9am ready to stand surety.
Bail money is available for all the 42 and it is ready to be posted immediately in the event that the magistrate decides to grant them cash bail. We are hopeful that they will be able to come out tomorrow if we do secure bail. The lawyers are ready and we think all should go well tomorrow.
The detainees will however need emergency support including food and accommodation when they get released and all these need to be arranged. As such we encourage all partners able to support this process to reach out to SMUG in order to coordinate efforts.
This is the latest in a worrying trend of mass arrests of LGBT persons whenever there is a gathering of any kind within the Kampala/Wakiso area. Impunity continues to escalate as well as acts of torture and violence against LGBT persons – including anal examinations. The authorities seem not to charge such persons with carnal knowledge against the order of nature perhaps due to the absence of evidence to support such a charge but use charges such as being a common nuisance and now the COVID-19 related restrictions to persecute LGBT persons. With the Sexual Offences Bill recently passed, this may be a harbinger of worse things to come.
Adrian Jjuuko, LLD Executive Director Human Rights Awareness and Promotion Forum (HRAPF) HRAPF House,
Caveat: Melanie Nathan directs African Human Rights Coalition (AHRC), which helps manage a grant from Safe Places International, that contributes to the support of Happy Family Youth Uganda: Article first PUBLISHED HERE.
UPDATED 6/2/21 11.00 AM PST –
Today was yet another hectic day – but we did not achieve our aim of securing the freedom of all the 42 detainees. The charge sheet officially has 42 persons. Of the other two persons – we are aware that one of them was detained somewhere else, and one person was released earlier.
Earlier today 3 of the detainees were released on bail. These were service providersThe group of 39 was transferred from the police station to Kitalya Mini Maxi Prison – and our experiences with that particular prison and LGBT persons are a cause for worry. The last time a large LGBT group was detained there, they were subjected to beatings, insults, burnings and anal examinations.
We do not have a basis to suggest that this time they will be treated differently, more so since the circumstances of their arrest are all over the media. Some of those arrested were part of the COSF-20 that were detained there last year, and we feel that they will not be very safe in those premises.
Our aim therefore is to get them out of Kitalya Prison as soon as practicable.Today’s bail hearing started at about 3pm – rather than the scheduled 9am and by the time all sureties had been examined it was past 5pm. The State Attorney requested for time to examine the documents submitted and prepare their response to the bail application.
We expect the State attorney to object to the bail application and to some of the sureties which will lead to lengthy proceedings. Adrian Jjuuko, LLD Executive Director Human Rights Awareness and Promotion Forum (HRAPF) HRAPF House,
UPDATED June 04, 2021:
All 42 persons on the Happy Family file have now been granted bail. Of these: 3 were released yesterday on bail, 7 have been released today on bail, and 32 remain in prison – to be released on bail on Monday 7th June 2021.
The 7 that were released today had continued to be detained at the police station and had not been taken to prison despite their having been remanded to prison. This turned out to be a blessing in disguise as the police station is near the court and so we just went over and picked them. We found when the Prisons bus had just arrived to convey them to prison and thus were just in time to have them released. They are now in a safe place and their debrief will start tomorrow.
For the 32, the distance between the court and the prison made it impossible to get to them in time despite our best efforts. We arrived at 7.30pm and it was obvious the prison authorities could not process and release 33 people at that time. Therefore we have to return back there on Monday – and unfortunately the 33 have to spend the weekend in prison.>
Luckily the Magistrate is one of the over 300 magistrates that HRAPF trained on LGBT rights at the end of last year – and so we reminded him to look beyond the charge sheet and see the real reason for the arrest of the 44. We backed this up by the fact that anal examinations were done upon 17 of them. He was generally positive and despite some of the people having only one surety he granted bail to all despite the credentials of the sureties. He knew how hard it was for LGBT persons to get sureties. He granted cash bail of Uganda Shillings Three hundred thousand (UGX. 300,000) to those with two sureties, and cash bail of Uganda Shillings Five hundred thousand (UGX. 500,000) to those with only one surety. 6 persons were released on non cash bail.
The ruling was unfortunately rendered at about 1pm and the rush against time to secure their actual release began. We were able to save time on generating assessments for payments, but unfortunately the banks could not handle the numbers and this process took more than two hours and yet it was a condition precedent to the magistrate signing the bail forms and release orders. By the time the last surety signed the bail forms, it was 6.20pm. The drive to Kitalya Prison took an hour, and thus our arrival at 7.30pm – and too late.
We thank the lawyers from Ubuntu Law and Justice Centre, Centre for Health, Human Rights and Development (CEHURD), and Triumph Uganda for standing alongside the HRAPF lawyers to secure the release of the 39 on bail. The collaboration greatly boosted the legal efforts. We thank the Open Society Initiative for Eastern Africa for practically joining the legal team to process the payment assessments – making it 5 laptops available for this process and greatly simplifying it. This is much appreciated.
We thank the sureties who spent yet another full day at the court – and the paralegal community for the coordination of sureties, mobilisation, standing as sureties and supporting the legal team at all stages. We also thank the different LGBT organisations led by SMUG for showing solidarity in this case. Lets Walk Uganda, Happy Family, FARUG, and Initiative for Rescue even assisted in processing bank payments and running around from bank to bank as well as the signing of bail forms. The lawyers felt greatly relieved and huge weights were taken off our shoulders.
Finally the diplomats- US, EU, Sweden, Denmark and others for coming to court early and staying there and never flinching even when the court delayed to start or was adjourned for an hour. Your presence was even noted by the Magistrate and surely helped with the quicker hearing of the case.
We thank the many partners who were at court – your presence helped a lot with giving the case the profile that it got.
The Magistrate and the court staff also went over and above duty to process the loads of paperwork that the case came with. They put aside all other business and worked hard to ensure that all was done.
Monday will simply be a routine day and we do not expect any hurdles. The Prisons authorities always release people when the paperwork is in order – and when the documents get to them in time. All the 32 will be out by the end of the day – that is almost guaranteed. There is no need for anything else as regards the process of getting them out. All logistical arrangements have been finalised for that process.
Once again, I thank all the different stakeholders for the support that has helped us to see yet another triumph. Adrian Jjuuko, LLD Executive Director Human Rights Awareness and Promotion Forum (HRAPF) HRAPF House.