A High Court judge in Uganda has awarded damages of 5 million Ugandan shillings (about US $1,341) to each of 19 LGBT youths who were imprisoned for 50 days on charges of violating the country’s COVID-19 lock-down rules.
By Kikonyogo Kivumbi
In a June 15 judgment, Justice Michael Elubu ruled that 19 prisoners were denied their right to a fair hearing when they were held in prison for 50 days without access to their attorney or a chance to apply for bail.
That right to a fair hearing is “non-derogable,” the court stated, which means it must be ensured even in the face of an emergency such as the COVID-19 pandemic.
The gay-friendly Human Rights Awareness and Promotion Forum (HRAPF) filed the suit on behalf of the 19 men. The case was labeled Human Rights Awareness and Promotion Forum (HRAPF) Vs Attorney General and Commissioner General of Prisons, High Court Miscellaneous Cause No.81 of 2020.
HRAPF issued a statement applauding the decision of the High Court.
About the case
Uganda police on March 29 arrested 23 LGBT Ugandans on charges of enabling the spread of Covid-19 by living together in a homeless shelter. Charges were preferred against 19 of those arrested. Those men were held at Kitalya Prison.
The March 29 raid by police and army targeted the shelter of Children of the Sun Foundation Uganda (Cosf Uganda), an LGBT organisation on the outskirts of the Ugandan capital, Kampala. The LGBT community members were beaten and forced to take a “walk of shame” through the village from their shelter to Nkokonjeru Police Post in Kyengera town council, about 20 minutes’ drive from Kampala City.
Villagers accused the shelter residents of homosexual acts. The villagers, speaking in the Luganda language, told BBS TV that the shelter residents had an “abnormal mannerism.”`
Kikonyogo Kivumbi, the author of this article, is the executive director of the Uganda Health and Science Press Association.