Court sets rules ahead of anti-gay law petition hearing

Photo combo (L-R): Budama North East MP Fox Odoi-Oywelowo, former Makerere University lecturer of law Prof Sylvia Tamale and journalist Andrew Mwenda. PHOTOS/ FILE/ COURTESY  

What you need to know:

  • According to the petitioners, the Anti-Homosexuality Act, 2023 alters a 2014 Constitutional Court decision which nullified a similar la. 

The Constitutional Court has set five guidelines which will be followed in the run-up to the hearing of a petition challenging the enactment of the anti-gay law.

The guidelines states that the Attorney General, the sole respondent in the petition, is required to come up with a joint scheduling memorandum in which brief facts of the petition will be highlighted, issues to be resolved and lists of authorities from each party which will be used during the hearing. 

The parties are also supposed to file legal arguments on points of law, and the Attorney General to file his brief facts by September 19, and in case of a rejoinder, it should be filed by September 26.

“The court will then hear the conferencing inter-parties on October 2, at 10am. Thereafter, the outcome of the conferencing session will be forwarded to the head of the court for directions on the way forward in relation to the quick disposal of the appeal/petition,” the court’s conferencing notes, which were released yesterday, read in part.

According to the petitioners, the Anti-Homosexuality Act, 2023 alters a 2014 Constitutional Court decision which nullified a similar law and is, therefore, inconsistent with Article 92 of the Constitution.

They argue that the Anti-Homosexuality Act, 2023 was passed within a record period of six days instead of the 45-day period provided by the rules of Parliament.

“The expediency and speed with which the Anti Homosexuality Act was passed denied the people of Uganda exercise of their power and sovereignty in contravention of Articles 1 (1), (2) and (3) of the Constitution,” the petition reads in part.

Prior to enactment of the law, Mr Odoi, a former legal counsel to President Museveni, was very vocal about it and even came up with a minority report which he tabled before Parliament. The pre-hearing of the petition was held yesterday.

The Attorney General in his defence said: “The provisions of the Anti-Homosexuality Act, 2023 are not inconsistent with or in contravention with the provisions of the Constitution, international treaties, covenants, conventions and declarations.”

The AG added that the legislation does not alter the 2014 decision by the Constitutional Court, saying: “The decision/judgment ...was based on the lack of quorum and did not go to the substance of the legislation.”

He added that the Act was passed by Parliament after conducting wide consultations with the public and their representatives in the form of written and oral memoranda.

About the law
The Anti-Homosexulity Act, 2023 prescribes tough penalties for various offences including participating in, promotion, facilitation and failure to report acts of homosexuality.

Penalties range from death for aggravated homosexuality to imprisonment not exceeding 20 years.