Ugandan gay activists sue cabinet minister over workshop closure

Four Ugandan gay rights activists have sued the government and Ethics Minister, Simon Lokodo for forcefully closing a gay rights workshop in Entebbe last month.

Jacqueline Kasha Nabagesera, one of the four activists in the suit

The activists: Jacqueline Kasha Nabagesera, Frank Mugisha, Julian Pepe Onziema and Geoffrey Ogwaro want the Ugandan High Court to pronounce that Lokodo’s closure of the gay rights workshop on February 14, 2012 violated their freedom of assembly guaranteed under the Ugandan constitution.

The suit has been filed at the High Court in Kampala. Francis Onyango is the lawyer for the activists.

Meanwhile, a communication from the group said: “The date for hearing the above case is June 25, 2012. The Judge will be on leave in May and his case list is full in April. We shall be serving Lokodo and the Attorney General during the course of this week.”

In a plaint, copies of which were obtained by Behind the Mask, the activists want court to declare that the minister’s order for the closing of the workshop constituted an infringement of the applicants’ and other participants’ right to participate in peaceful activities to influence policies of government through civic organizations guaranteed under article 38(2) of the Ugandan constitution.

“That the action of the minister to order the closing of the workshop while no other workshop taking place at the same venue was closed was arbitrary and unjustified and constituted an infringement of the applicants’ and other participants’ right equal treatment before the law under article 21 of the constitution,” reads the plaint in part.


Simon Lokodo, Ugandan Ethics Minister

The cabinet minister’s raid forcefully stopped the meeting of LGBTI activists who had gathered for a capacity building workshop for human rights defenders. Lokodo, while closing the workshop accused the gay activists of recruiting children into the gay life.

According to activists at the hotel during the raid, when some activists resisted and said he was lying, he ordered security guards to arrest them.

A week prior to the raid Minister Lokodo had signed a statement on behalf of the President’s Office saying that Ugandan government did not support the re-introduced “kill-the-gays-bill.”

The Ugandan judiciary has in the past exhibited independence when handling cases brought before it by gay activists. The high court last year found the defunct Rolling Stone tabloid out of order for publishing photos of actual or alleged gays with a public call to kill them.

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