Human Rights House Foundation

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HRHN condemns the killing of David Kato calls for protection of all human rights defenders in Uganda

Over 40 members and partners of the Human Rights House Network sent a letter of concern to the authorities of the Republic of Uganda today, calling for an immediate investigation into the murder of David Kato and for effective protection of all human rights defenders in the Republic of Uganda.

Tuesday, 01 February 2011

See the letter under "Documents" on the right

We, the undersigned member and partner organisations of the Human Rights House Network (HRHN), strongly condemn the murder of LGBT activist David Kato Kisule on 26 January 2011 in Kampala and call upon the state authorities to ensure the security and rights of all human rights defenders, including LGBT activists, in the country.

HRHN is deeply concerned about the security of LGBT activists in Uganda and across the East and Horn of Africa region. Lesbians, gays, bisexuals and transgender persons continue to be subjected to harassment, threats, violent attacks and even murder. While the motive of the murder of David Kato, Advocacy and Litigation Officer of Sexual Minorities Uganda (SMUG), has yet to be established, HRHN believes that it is linked to his long-standing, open and profiled campaigning for LGBT. David Kato received death threats after the tabloid Rolling Stone in Uganda published in October 2010 the lists of presumed homosexual Ugandans, along with their names and addresses and a yellow banner on the side reading “Hang them.” David Kato was named and pictured on the front page.

David Cato was one of the three LGBT activists who sued the publication and obtained on 4 January 2011 a condemnation and a strong High Court judgement on the universal right to life and dignity. The High Court awarded each of the three 1.5 million Ugandan shillings (649 USD), and issued an injunction prohibiting the publication of the identities and addresses of homosexuals. However, the ruling also made a point of stressing that the decision reached made no pronouncement whatsoever on the legality of homosexuality, which remains a crime under Ugandan law.

In Uganda, as across the region, homosexuality remains criminalised and punishable by severe prison sentences. In October 2009, Anti-Homosexuality Bill imposing life sentences or the death penalty for gay people was introduced in Uganda but has not yet been formally debated by parliament. Margaret Sekaggya, United Nations (UN) Special Rapporteur on the Situation of Human Rights Defenders, and Frank La Rue, UN Special Rapporteur on the Promotion and Protection of the Right to Freedom of Opinion and Expression, voiced on 1 March 2010 their deep concerns about the Anti-Homosexuality Bill: “The Bill would not only violate the fundamental rights of lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender Ugandan people,” stressed Margaret Sekaggya and Frank La Rue, “but would also criminalize the legitimate activities of men and women, as well as national and international organizations, who strive for the respect for equality and non-discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation.” 

The HRHN stands together with LGBT defenders and their organisations in condemning the murder of David Kato and reminds the Ugandan authorities of its binding obligation to respect and to ensure the rights to all the individuals within its territory, including the LGBT activists, as provided in Article 2 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR), ratified by Uganda in 1995. The UN Human Rights Committee has on numerous occasions expressly stated that homosexuality is protected by Article 2 of ICCPR as a special status of non-discrimination and urged the states to pass anti-discrimination legislation that expressly includes sexual orientation as a protected ground (see, e.g. Toonen v. Australia, No. 488/1992, U.N. Doc CCPR/C/50/D/488/1992 (1994)). Therefore, by persecuting the LGBT rights activists and by criminalizing homosexuality, the Ugandan authorities violate their international obligations, provided in the ICCPR. 

According to Article 7 of the United Nations Declaration on the Right and Responsibility of Individuals, Groups and Organs of Society to Promote and Protect Universally Recognized Human Rights and Fundamental Freedoms (also known as the Human Rights Defenders Declaration), “Everyone has the right, individually and in association with others, to develop and discuss new human rights ideas and principles and to advocate their acceptance” and according to Article 12.2 “The state shall take all necessary measures to ensure the protection by the competent authorities of everyone, individually and in association with others, against any violence, threats, retaliation, de facto or de jure adverse discrimination, pressure or any other arbitrary action as a consequence of his or her legitimate exercise of their rights referred to in the present Declaration”. 

HRHN is deeply concerned with the situation where religious and political leaders, as well as the media continue to demonise LGBT activists in Uganda and LGBT persons are frequently exposed to hate speech, attacks and harassment.  HRHN also reminds about the call made to all States by the UN Human Rights Council to take timely and effective action to prevent and protect against attacks on and threats to persons engaged in promoting and defending human rights and fundamental freedoms and their relatives (§ 6, resolution 13/13, 25 March 2010, ­UN Doc.: A/HRC/RES/13/13). 

Therefore, we call upon the Ugandan authorities to: 

  • Investigate, in a prompt, effective, independent and accountable manner, the murder of David Kato and bring those responsible for his killing, including those who may have encouraged or requested his killing, to justice.
  • Fully decriminalise homosexuality and prevent impunity for all kinds of incitement to or direct harassment, threats and other violations against lesbians, gays, bisexuals and transgender persons, as well as ensure that they are treated equally.
  • Refrain from hate speech and ensure the right to freedom of expression to all human rights defenders, including those defending the rights of sexual minorities, as provided in Article 19 of the ICCPR.
  • Ensure in law and in practice the right to freedom of association for lesbians, gays, bisexuals and transgender persons, and their right to organise themselves to protect and promote their rights, as provided in Article 22 of ICCPR and called for by the UN Human Rights Council (§ 1, resolution 15/21, 30 September 2010, UN Doc.: A/HRC/RES/15/21).

Belarusian Human Rights House in exile in Vilnius, Lithuania

Russian Research Center for Human Rights (on behalf of the following NGOs):

  • Human Rights Network Group
  • Independent Psychiatric Association of the Russian Federation
  • Moscow Centre for Prison Reform
  • Moscow Helsinki Group
  • Mother's Right Foundation
  • Non-violence International
  • Right of the Child
  • Right to Live and have Civil Dignity
  • Social Partnership Foundation
  • Union of the Committees of Soldiers' Mothers of the Russian Federation

Youth Human Rights Movement (the Russian Federation)

Human Rights House Baku (on behalf of the following NGOs):

  • Human Rights Centre of Azerbaijan (AHRC)
  • Society for Humanitarian Research
  • Women’s Association for Rational Development (WARD)

Human Rights House Tbilisi (on behalf of the following NGOs):

  • Article 42 of the Constitution
  • The Caucasian Centre for Human Rights and Conflict Studies (CAUCASIA)
  • The Georgian Centre for Psychosocial and Medical Rehabilitation of Torture Victims (GCRT)
  • The Human Rights Centre (HRIDC)
  • Union ‘Saphari’ – Family Without Violence

Armenian Helsinki Association (Armenia)

Ukrainian Helsinki Human Rights Union

Human Rights House Sarajevo (on behalf of the following NGOs):

  • Association of Female Citizens "Renaissance"
  • Foundation CURE
  • Helsinki Committee for Human Rights in Bosnia and Herzegovina
  • Regional Co-ordinator for Youth Groups
  • Serb Civic Council - Movement for Equality - The Council of the Sarajevo Canton
  • Woman and Society Centre

Human Rights House Zagreb (on behalf of the following NGOs):

  • APEO/UPIM – Association for Promotion of Equal Opportunities for People with Disabilities
  • B.a.B.e.
  • CMS - Centre for Peace Studies
  • Documenta - Centre for Dealing with the Past
  • GOLJP - Civic Committee for Human Rights
  • Svitanje  - Association for Protection and Promotion of Mental Health

Human Rights House Skopje (on behalf of the following NGOs):

  • Association for Democratic Initiatives (ADI)
  • The First Children’s Embassy in the World – "Megjashi"
  • Helsinki Committee for Human Rights of the Republic of Macedonia
  • Macedonian Women’s Rights Centre (MWRC) - Shelter Centre
  • Polio Plus – Movement Against Disability

Free Word Center (on behalf of the following NGOs):

  • Article 19
  • Index on Censorship

Helsinki Foundation for Human Rights (Poland)

Human Rights House Oslo (on behalf of the following NGOs):

  • Health and Human Rights Info
  • Human Rights House Foundation
  • Norwegian Helsinki Committee

Copies have been sent to:

  • The Directorate General of Human Rights and Legal Affairs of the Council of Europe, Strasbourg
  • The Office of the Commissioner for Human Rights of the Council of Europe, Strasbourg
  • The UN Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights defenders, Geneva
  • The UN Special Rapporteur on extrajudicial, summary or arbitrary executions, Geneva
  • The Norwegian Ministry of Foreign Affairs
  • The Standing Committee for Foreign Affairs of the Norwegian Parliament
  • The Norwegian Embassy in Uganda
  • The Swiss Ministry of Foreign Affairs
  • The Consulate of Switzerland in Kampala, Uganda
  • The Permanent Mission of Uganda to the United Nations, Geneva

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