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Activists condemn police over raiding gay conference

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By Solomon Arinaitwe

Posted  Wednesday, June 20  2012 at  00:00
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International human rights agency, Amnesty International, on Monday condemned a police raid on a workshop organised by the lesbian, gay and transgender community, calling it “senseless and ludicrous harassment of rights activists which has no basis in law”.

Ms Michelle Kagari, the Amnesty deputy director for Africa, said there was a worrying pattern emerging whereby Ugandan authorities deliberately engage in arbitrary activities to intimidate and threaten legitimate human rights work.

The Monday afternoon workshop was organised by the East and Horn of Africa Human Rights Defenders Project to equip rights activists in monitoring, documentation and reporting rights abuses in the region at Najjera in Kira Town Council.

Access denied
Participants had come in from Rwanda, Kenya, Uganda and Tanzania.

At least five staff of the project were detained alongside 12 of the workshop participants while others escaped after being tipped off about the police raid.

Witnesses said most participants arrived quietly.

“Most of them came in on boda bodas and some riders were left stranded at the gate as they waited for the passengers to come back,” Fred, who lives opposite the hotel gate said.

Journalists were denied access to the hotel but the participants were seen lounging in the compound.

Amnesty International urged the police to end “its outrageous behaviour which makes a mockery of Uganda’s human rights obligations.”

Uganda faced international criticism when Ndorwa West legislator David Bahati tabled the Anti-homosexuality Bill in 2009, pending a piece of legislation which proposed punitive measures like the death penalty for offenders.

The international community maintains that homosexuality is a human right but promoters of the Bill argue that it is an affront to African and Ugandan culture.

editorial@ug.nationmedia.com