UGANDA: Justice at last for Victor Juliet Mukasa !

Press release

Geneva-Paris, December 23, 2008. The Observatory for the Protection of Human Rights Defenders, a joint programme of the World Organisation Against Torture (OMCT) and the International Federation for Human Rights (FIDH), welcomes yesterday’s final judgement of the High Court of Uganda in the case Ms. Victor Juliet Mukasa had brought against the Attorney General of Uganda when Government officials illegally raided in 2005 her home without a search warrant.

The Observatory recalls that in the night of July 20, 2005, the house of Ms. Victor Juliet Mukasa, President of the Sexual Minorities in Uganda (SMUG), a prominent NGO advocating for the rights of homosexuals in the country, was attacked by Government officials in the outskirts of Kampala, where Ms. Mukasa lives. Although they did not present any search warrant, these officials seized several documents relating to the association’s activities. The officials also illegally arrested a guest at Ms. Mukasa’s home, Ms. Yvonne Oyoo, and treated the two in an inhuman and degrading manner amounting to sexual harassment and indecent assault. Ms. Oyoo was released without charges under conditions (See Observatory Annual Report 2005).

On December 22, 2008, the High Court of Uganda ruled that the Government had violated the rights of Ms. Victor Juliet Mukasa and Ms. Yvonne Oyoo, and declared that Ugandan constitutional rights apply to lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender (LGBT) people regardless of whether they are homosexual or transgender. The Government will be required to pay damages to both Ms. Musaka and Ms. Oyoo for violating their rights and seizing Ms. Musaka’s documents.

The last hearing in the case had taken place on September 21, 2007 and was pending since then.

SMUG advocates for the promotion and the respect of all rights enshrined in the Ugandan Constitution and international human rights instruments for lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender persons - in particular the right to live free from any discrimination.

The Observatory sees the ruling of the High Court of Uganda as a positive step towards the protection of LGBT advocates, in line with the 1998 United Nations Declaration on Human Rights Defenders.

The Observatory calls upon the Ugandan authorities to fully implement the decision of the High Court of Uganda, and urges them to guarantee in all circumstances the physical and psychological integrity of human rights defenders in the country, to put an end to any act of harassment against them - in particular against LGBT rights’ defenders - in conformity with the provisions of the above-mentioned Declaration. The Observatory also urges the Ugandan authorities to ensure in all circumstances the respect for human rights and fundamental freedoms in accordance with the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and with international and regional human rights instruments ratified by Uganda.

For further information, please contact:

OMCT: Delphine Reculeau, + 41 22 809 49 39
FIDH: Gaël Grilhot / Karine Appy, + 33 1 43 55 25 18

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