Uganda’s Office of the Director of Public Prosecutions (DPP) in Uganda must urgently drop charges of “aggravated homosexuality” against a 20-year-old man charged on 18 August 2023 becoming the second Ugandan to be charged with the offence under the country’s invasive Anti-Homosexuality Act, which carries the death penalty, Amnesty International said today.
“It is deeply disturbing that the Ugandan authorities are prosecuting people based on their real or perceived sexual orientation or gender identity. Discrimination and persecution of lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and intersex (LGBTI) people in the country must be halted,” said Tigere Chagutah, Amnesty International’s Regional Director for East and Southern Africa.
Lawyers of the accused told Amnesty International that Ugandan police officers arrested the 20-year-old alongside another individual, aged 41, at Soroti Sports Ground in Soroti, eastern Uganda, on 15 August 2023. They were arrested around midnight and taken to Soroti Central Police Station on allegations of engaging in sexual relations with a person of the same sex, an allegation that the accused person denied. The lawyers reported that the police officers told them that they caught the two men half-naked.
“Charging this individual with an offence that carries the death penalty based solely on his perceived sexual orientation is a flagrant violation of international law. Uganda must not only repeal the Anti-Homosexuality Act but also ensure accountability for the ongoing violations against the LGBTI community in the country,” said Tigere Chagutah.
On the same day of the arrest, the police released the 41-year-old man. The police told lawyers that the 41-year-old was unable to provide consent for sexual conduct due to his “mental status” and therefore a victim, making the alleged offence “aggravated”. However, according to a spokesperson from the Office of the DPP, the “victim was a 41-year-old male living with a disability.” Lawyers said that the police did not provide any evidence to substantiate this assertion.
The 20-year-old was held in police custody until 18 August. He was then taken to Soroti Chief Magistrates Court, before being remanded at the Soroti Main Prison until 1 September, when his case will be called for mention at the same court. The lawyers of the accused also told Amnesty International that the police conducted anal examinations on the alleged victim on 16 August.
“Amnesty International vehemently opposes any form of anal examination to determine whether anyone has engaged in same-sex sexual relations. Such examinations violate the prohibition of torture and other ill-treatment under international law.”
The Anti-Homosexuality Act, signed into law in May 2023, introduced “aggravated homosexuality”, which it defines as sexual intercourse with a person older than 75 or younger than 18, who either does not give consent, is unable to give consent, or is a person living with a disability or mentally illness. The maximum penalty for “aggravated homosexuality” is the death penalty.
Amnesty International opposes the death penalty in all cases without exception – regardless of who is accused, the nature or circumstances of the crime, guilt or innocence or method of execution.
According to the Human Rights Awareness and Promotion Forum (HRAPF), a Ugandan advocacy NGO, since the passing of the LGBTI law, at least five people have been charged with offences under the law. There have also been reports of a spike in violence and other violations against LGBTI persons in Uganda. The NGO also recorded a total of 149 cases of violence against LGBTI persons in June and July 2023, including evictions from homes, villages and rented homes, and actual or threatened violence.