Case against homophobic cabinet minister opens in Kampala amidst gay recruitment claims

A high court judge in Uganda, Justice Eldad Mwangushya has said security agencies should “infiltrate” gay rights groups to ascertain if children are “recruited into homosexuality.” The judge made the comments on Monday in Kampala at the beginning of the hearing of a case brought by gay activists against the government and Ethics and Integrity Minister for forcing the closure of a gay rights workshop in February this year.

The judge suggested that rather than forcing gays not to hold meetings, spies could enter in such meetings and hear what the homosexuals are discussing. He told a fully parked court room that he was allowing Fr. Simon Lokodo and the Attorney General to file their defence by July 2, 2012 and the hearing to resume on July 6, 2012 in Kampala.

Security agencies in Uganda are notorious for torture and have secret torture chambers ironically called “safe houses”, this despite a new law against torture having recently been introduced in Uganda.

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 in Entebbe violated their freedom of assembly guaranteed under the Ugandan constitution.

The activists accuse the minister and government of breach of personal liberty.They want the court to declare that the minister’s closing of the workshop constituted an infringement of their right to participate in peaceful activities to influence policies of government through civic organizations guaranteed under article 38(2) of the Ugandan constitution.

The plaint reads in part, “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.”

The cabinet minister’s raid forcefully stopped a meeting of LGBTI activists who had gathered for a capacity building workshop for human rights defenders. While closing the workshop, Lokodo accused the gay activists of recruiting children into the gay lifestyle. According to activists at the hotel during the raid, when some activists responded to the minister’s claims and said he was lying, he ordered security guards to arrest them.

The lawyers for the activists led by Elasdius Rwakafuuzi wanted the judge to issue an injunction restraining the minister from further closing gay rights meetings.

On June 18, the minister forced his way into another meeting convened by East and Horn of Africa Human Rights Defenders, a local Ugandan organization and arrested participants. He then said on the occasion that 38 gay rights organizations would be deregistered and forced to close down, although he has since retracted his earlier stand in a statement issued recently.

Justice Mwanghusya said there was a precedent judgment by a high court judge from last year which indicates that homosexuals have the right to assembly in Uganda.

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