Uganda: Condemn the Arrest and Torture of Usaam Mukwaaya, LGBT Human Rights Defender
Action Alert: Uganda: Condemn the Arrest and Torture of LGBT Human Rights Defender
On July 25, 2008, at 3:00 p.m., Ugandan police arrested and tortured a key Ugandan human rights activist–one of three who had been detained slightly more than a month ago while peacefully demonstrating for access to HIV services. Usaam Mukwaaya was on his way back from Friday prayers when he was stopped by a police patrol car and taken off a motorbike taxi that he had hired to transport him. Three men in police uniform and a fourth in civilian attire put Mukwaaya in the patrol car. He was driven to a building where he was led through a dark hall to an interrogation room, and aggressively questioned about the Ugandan LGBT movement. Mukwaaya was cut around the hands and tortured with a machine that applies extreme pressure to the body, preventing breathing and causing severe pain.
Sexual Minorities Uganda (SMUG)–a coalition of 3 LGBTI organizations in Uganda–and the International Gay and Lesbian Human Rights Commission (IGLHRC) searched unsuccessfully for Mukwaaya from 3:00 p.m. on July 25 to the morning of July 26, 2008, inquiring as to his whereabouts at five police stations in Kampala. On July 26, 2008, at about 11:40 a.m., Mukwaaya was driven from the building where he’d been held for about 30 to 45 minutes and dumped. Shaken and bruised, he boarded a motorbike taxi to the city center and telephoned colleagues from SMUG who found him weak, filthy and without shoes and some of his clothing..
IGLHRC calls upon its partners and friends to join us in condemning the arrest and torture of Mukwaaya and the violation of LGBT human rights in Uganda by the government and its agents. Please send politely worded faxes and e-mails to the following Ugandan officials:
President Kaguta Yoweri Museveni,
President of the Republic of Uganda,
Office of the President of Uganda,
State House Nakasero,
P.O. Box 24594, Kampala, Uganda.
Fax: +256 (0) 414 436 102 / + 256 41 4235459
/ +256 41 4344012
E-mail: email@example.com /
Hon. Ruhakana Rugunda,
Minister of Internal Affairs,
Jinja Rd, PO Box 7191,
Fax: + 256 414343088
Mr. Kale Kaihura,
Inspector General of Police,
Telephone: +256 (0) 712 755 999
Please copy your appeals to the following individuals responsible for monitoring human rights in Uganda:
Director, Monitoring and Inspections,
Uganda Human Rights Commission,
Plot 20/22/24 Buganda Road,
P.O Box 4929,
Fax: + 256 41 255 261
Email: firstname.lastname@example.org or or email@example.com
Mr. Livingstone Sewanyana,
Human Rights House,
Plot 1853, Block 15, Lulume Road, Nsambya,
P.O Box 11027,
Fax: 256 – 41 – 510498,
E-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org or email@example.com
Please send a copy of all e-mails and faxes to IGLHRC Africa Regional Office at
E-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org (attn: July 08 Uganda Action)
I am writing to you today to strongly condemn the illegal detention and torture of Usaam Mukwaaya on July 25-26, 2008 by the Ugandan police. These actions by the police are a violation of numerous human rights promised to the people of Uganda under the African Charter of Human and Peoples’ Rights and other international treaties to which your country is a signatory. These treaties, as well as your constitution, guarantee the right to physical integrity, freedom from torture, and freedom from discrimination based on sex or other status.
I am requesting that the Government of Uganda fulfills its international responsibilities by undertaking a thorough and transparent investigation into the illegal detention and torture of Usaam Mukwaaya and that those responsible be brought to justice.
Furthermore, I would like your assurance that human rights violations targeting lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender Ugandans be halted immediately.
(Please add here a sentence about your organization and its mission, if relevant.)
IGLHRC and SMUG have documented a pattern of abuse against LGBT people in Uganda. In the past five years, the government has arrested LGBT people on sodomy charges, harassed LGBT human rights defenders, and fined a private radio station that broadcast programming on HIV prevention and men who have sex with men. In July 2005, Uganda’s Parliament passed an amendment to the constitution making Uganda only the second country in the world to use its constitution to outlaw marriage between people of the same sex. A coalition of religious leaders has marched through the streets of Kampala demanding the arrests of LGBT people with one cleric even calling for the “starving to death” of homosexuals. Inspired by the official homophobia of the state, the Ugandan media has published lists of gay men and lesbians, leading to physical violence, loss of employment and educational opportunities by LGBT people.
On June 4, 2008, Mukwaaya and two other human rights defenders, Pepe Julian Onziema and Valentine Kalende, were arrested while peacefully attending the 2008 HIV/AIDS Implementers Meeting in Kampala. They were charged with criminal trespass, a case that is ongoing in the courts. The arrest of the activists has been condemned by local and international organizations, including UNAIDS and the U.S. government, both of which were organizers of the conference. Media attention related to the trial and the strong international condemnation of the arrests may be the cause of the arrest of Usaam Mukwaaya and continued harassment of LGBT activists.