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Report of the Special Rapporteur on the right to health, A/HRC/14/20/Add.1, 19 May 2010

Uganda
Communication sent

328. On 12 November 2009, the Special Rapporteur on the right of everyone to the enjoyment of the highest attainable standard of physical and mental health, together with the Chairperson of the Working Group on Arbitrary Detention, the Special Rapporteur on extrajudicial, summary or arbitrary executions, and the Special Rapporteur on torture and other cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment sent a joint urgent appeal to the Government of Uganda concerning the Detention of nine men under Penal Act Code Article 145(a) and the alleged ill treatment of two of the detainees, one of whom died immediately upon release from prison.

329. According to the information received, consensual homosexual conduct is a criminal offense in Uganda, punishable, in some cases, with life imprisonment. At present, people suspected of homosexual conduct are being prosecuted on the charge of “carnal knowledge of any person against the order of nature” under Penal Act Code Article 145(a). Reportedly, nine men currently are being detained on this charge and have been held in detention for over 90 days without trial. They allegedly were arrested without warrant or other permission by local police officers, in some cases in cooperation with Local Council Officials, on the basis of unfounded allegations of homosexuality made by fellow villagers. They thus have been detained for extended periods of time, longer than the maximum of 48 hours, during which time some men were beaten by other detainees and the police, forced to undergo invasive medical examinations and denied access to necessary health care.

330. Details regarding each of the individuals are as follows:

  1. Mr. S. S. was first detained in Nakifuma, Kawuuga Prison, Mukono, and is now detained in Luzira Prison, Kibuye. Initially charged with “carnal knowledge against the order of nature”, he was later charged with “defilement” and “aggravated defilement”. Mr. S. remains in Luzira Prison pending a hearing on his application for bail, which has recently been postponed for two months.
  2. Mr. S. K. K. has been detained since March 2009 in Kigo Prison, Entebbe. He was initially charged with “carnal knowledge against the order of nature” and later with “aggravated defilement”.
  3. Mr. C. T.: The details of his detention are unknown.
  4. Mr. J. K. is detained in Butuntumula Prison, Luwero Village. Initially charged with “carnal knowledge against the order of nature”, he was later charged with “defilement” and “aggravated defilement”.
  5. Mr. J. S. was detained from June 2009 to 13 July 2009 in Luzira Prison, Kibuye, charged with “aggravated defilement”.
  6. Mr. D. E. M. K. K. was arrested in May 2009 in Nakawuka Village, Kasanje Sub-County, Wakiso District and charged with “aggravated defilement”.
  7. Mr. J. K. T. was arrested in October 2008 in Karoza, Mitooma, Bushenyi and charged with “carnal knowledge against the order of nature”.
  8. Mr. F. W. (also known as N. M.) was arrested on 8 April 2009 in Namakwekwe Village, Mbale District of Eastern Uganda and charged with “carnal knowledge against the order of nature”. He was detained in Kampala Road Police Station, Mbale Police Station, and Maluke Prison (all in the Mbale District of Eastern Uganda) until 20 May 2009.
  9. Mr. B. M. was arrested on 8 April 2009 in Namakwekwe Village, Mbale District of Eastern Uganda, charged with “carnal knowledge against the order of nature”. He was detained in Kampala Road Police Station, Mbale Police Station and Maluke Prison (all in the Mbale District of Eastern Uganda) until June 16, 2009.

331. In particular, information received regarding Mr. B. M. and Mr. F. W. suggests that there were no investigations into actions by the police, who lacked arrest warrants. The arrests followed denunciations of Namakwekwe villagers and local LCD officers who suspected Messrs. M. and W. of homosexual activity. At the Kampala Road Police Station, both men were kept in a cell with 17 other men who allegedly severely beat them on two occasions, after having been incited by the police to do so upon disclosure of the allegations against them.

332. On 9 April 2009, both men were transferred to Mbale Police Station, where a police doctor allegedly examined them in a humiliating and invasive manner. The report of these examinations (dated 16 June 2009) stated that both men had gonorrhoea and were HIV negative, and mentioned that both men had pierced ear lobes, a presumed sign of homosexuality. The police also allowed the media to take photographs of Mr. M. and Mr. W., which were then used in full coverage stories on television and in newspapers. Reports about these alleged violations of the right to privacy were submitted to the Uganda Human Rights Commission on 17 June 2009.

333. Both men remained in custody at Mbale until 17 April 2009, when they were formally charged in court with “having carnal knowledge against the order of nature.” They were then transferred on remand to Maluke Prison in Mbale. Following appearances on 21 April 2009 and 4 May 2009, bail was set for both of them. However, neither man could immediately meet the financial terms and conditions set by the court, so their detention was again extended until 20 May 2009, when Mr. W. was released. He is attending court hearings while on bail.

334. Meanwhile, Mr. M. remained in custody until 16 June 2009. Due to the violent treatment received while in custody, Mr. M. was admitted to Mbale District Hospital, with severe injuries to his head and internal organs, immediately upon getting bail. However, he went into a coma before any medical examinations were carried out. Subsequently, his condition deteriorated and he died on 13 September 2009. Medical records contain conflicting information on the cause of this death. While one report indicates that the coma was due to complications from syphilis, others indicate that his death was related to meningitis or anaemia. Despite the resulting uncertainty, no autopsy was carried out on Mr. M. and the cause of this death remains unknown. However, a number of sources have indicated their fear that physical and psychological ill-treatment or torture during Mr. M.’s detention may have caused or contributed to his death.

Observation

335. The Special Rapporteur regrets that at the time of the finalization of the report, the Government has not transmitted any reply to this communication.

Link to full text of the report: http://www2.ohchr.org/english/bodies/hrcouncil/docs/14session/A.HRC.14.20.Add.1_EFS.pdf