Two officials in Uganda are facing charges of torture and inhuman and degrading treatment in connection with the arrest of 20 men from an LGBT+ shelter.
In March harrowing footage emerged of a “bogus” coronavirus raid on the the Children of the Sun Foundation LGBT+ shelter in Kampala. The men were seen being whipped, chained, interrogated and publicly humiliated by a municipal mayor.
While some were released on health grounds, the majority spent almost 50 days in jail, during which time they were denied HIV medicine, legal counsel, and the ability to apply for bail.
The case attracted the attention of international human rights activists, and after sustained pressure the men were finally freed with all charges dropped and an order to be compensated US$1,341 each by the Ugandan government.
A criminal case is now underway thanks to the Human Rights Awareness and Promotion Forum (HRAPF), which initiated private proceedings after local police refused to take it on.
In a press release, the group decried the “myriad of forms of violence, ranging from taunting, flogging, scalding, subjection to corporal punishment, as well as denial of access to food, sanitary facilities and medication”.
According to 76 Crimes the Chief Magistrates Court of Wakiso has now issued a summons to the town councilman who headed the raid and beatings, Hajj Abdul Kiyimba, as well as prison officer Philimon Woniala.
“We believe that because the [prisoners] were perceived as LGBT+, the accused chairman and prisons officer and others who may torture, believe they can get away with such acts with impunity,” said Melanie Nathan, executive director of the African Human Rights Coalition.
“It is time to set an example – that even though LGBT+ people are criminalised under the penal codes of Uganda, there is no exception or excuse to torture any individual under any circumstances.”
She reiterated the unwarranted nature of the arrests, stating that while the men weren’t technically arrested for being gay, “if they were not perceived as such, they would not have been targets for arrest at all.”
She continued: “All said and done if ever there is a case exposing the exploitation of criminalisation of gay people, [this] is that case.”
The civil case against Kiyimba, Woniala and the state will be heard on September 23.