Summary of cases transmitted to Governments and replies received, A/HRC/10/12/Add.1, 4 March 2009: Uganda
2608. On 12 August 2008, the Special Rapporteur, together with the Special Rapporteur on the independence of judges and lawyers and the Special Rapporteur on torture and other cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment, sent a letter of allegations on the situation of Usaam “Auf” Mukwaya, Onziema Patience, Valentine Kalende, and Julian “Pepe” Onziema, all members of Sexual Minorities Uganda (SMUG), a local organization advocating on behalf of Uganda’s lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender (LGBT) people and on HIV/AIDS issues in Uganda; and Nikki Mawanda, programme coordinator of Transgender, Intersex, Transsexual (TIT), an organization that supports the needs of transgender, transsexual, and intersex Ugandans. According to the allegations received:
2609. On 4 June 2008, police arrested Usaam Mukwaya, Onziema Patience, and Valentine Kalende in Kampala, after a protest at the 2008 “HIV/AIDS Implementers Meeting.” The activists were protesting against statements made by Kihumuro Apuuli, director general of the Uganda AIDS Commission, who on 2 June declared that “gays are one of the drivers of HIV in Uganda, but because of meager resources we cannot direct our programmes at them at this time.”
2610. Police took the three activists to the Jinja Road Police Station and detained them until 6 June. Authorities finally released the activists on bail after charging them with criminal trespass, under Section 302 of the Uganda Penal Code, despite the fact that sponsors of the Implementers Meeting had invited the activists to attend the conference.
2611. The defendants last appeared before a Kampala court on 25 July, where several witnesses of the State (mainly police officers) and the defendants were cross-examined. The judge adjourned the hearing until 1 August. At previous hearings held on July 9 and 10, the judge adjourned the case following the public prosecutor’s request to give police additional time to locate new witnesses.
2612. After the court hearing, a patrol car stopped the taxi Mukwaya was riding in and four men identifying themselves as police officers, three of them with uniforms and the fourth with plain clothes, detained him and put him in the police’s pickup truck. The police officers drove towards Jinja Road where a civilian car with tinted screens was waiting for them parked in front of Shoprite. Police officers forced Mukwaya into the other car with three other policemen; two wore suits and one wore a police uniform. The men drove around for about 30 minutes and took Mukwaya to an undisclosed location. Two female and one male police officer were waiting. The police confiscated Mukwaya’s mobile phone, which contained contact names and numbers of members of SMUG and other LGBT rights organisations. The police asked Mukwaya if he was Nikki, when he said he was not they asked him his name. The three police officers then pushed him through a dark corridor into a room where they made him sit on a chair. Mukwaya, 26, saw four other men around his age in the room. One had a broken leg and the other three appeared to have been beaten. One of the women officers scraped his knuckles with a razor-like object. His abductors asked him questions in Luganda, a local language, about the activists’ funders and supporters, and about his own role “among the homosexuals.” They also demanded information about Pepe and Nikki. They demanded the address of the SMUG office, as well as the residence and office of Mukwaya’s lawyer. Before dawn, they forced him to strip to his underwear, asked him if he was a man or a woman, and made him walk around the room in his underwear. In the room, there was a machine that suspended above a cushioned bench, and a prisoner’s arms are restrained by extensions alongside the device. As it is lowered by a switch, the extensions stretch the prisoner’s arms. Mukwaya was ordered by a policeman to lie on the bench face-up, and threatened that he should provide information on the organization’s source of funds. Mukawaya said nothing and his arms were stretched, leaving him with intense pain. After about 15 minutes, the machine was turned off and he was asked how much he was paid to be a homosexual. When he did not answer, they left him sleeping on the bench. The following day, 26 July, the police dropped Mukwaya off at Mulago round-about in central Kampala. On 28 July, activists accompanied Mukwaya to file an official complaint before the Uganda Human Rights Commission (UHRC). He also visited a doctor who documented the ill- treatment. On 29 July he went to the African Centre for Torture Victims (ACTV) to receive psychological support. As of today, police have not detained the people responsible for Mukwaya’s torture.
2613. Concern was expressed that Usaam Mukwaya, Onziema Patience, Valentine Kalende, and Julian Onziema, and Nikki Mawanda may be at risk of torture or other forms of ill- treatment. Concern was also expressed in regard to the physical and psychological integrity of Usaam “Auf” Mukwaya. Further concerns were expressed that the arrests and detention of Usaam “Auf” Mukwaya, Onziema Patience, Valentine Kalende, Julian Onziema and Nikki Mawanda might be solely connected to the reportedly non-violent exercise of their right to freedom of opinion and expression, of assembly and of association.
2614. On 22 September 2008, the Special Rapporteur, together with the Special Rapporteur on the promotion and protection of the right to freedom of opinion and expression, sent an urgent appeal on the situation of George Oundo and Kiiza Brendah. George Oundo and Kiiza Brendah work as lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) activists, promoting and protecting the rights of the lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender community in Uganda. According to the information received:
2615. On 10 September 2008 George Oundo and Kiiza Brendah were arrested in the home of Oundo, in the village of Nabweru, Wakiso district, outside Kampala. The policemen removed gay literature from Oundo’s home, and transferred them to Nalukologolo police station. On 11 September 2008 they were transferred to Nabweru police station, where they were subjected to extensive interrogation about lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) human rights defenders. George Oundo and Kiiza Brendah were detained for seven days and released on 18 September 2008. They were held at the police station without charge and have not been brought before a court within the constitutional limit of 48 hours. Upon their release on 18 September they were ordered to present themselves at the police station again on 24 September 2008.
2616. Concern was expressed about the arrest and detention without charges of George Oundo and Kiiza Brendah. Concern was also expressed with regard to their physical and psychological integrity. Further concerns were expressed that the arrests and detention of George Oundo and Kiiza Brendah might be solely connected to the reportedly nonviolent exercise of their right to freedom of opinion and expression, of assembly and of association.
2617. The Special Rapporteur regrets that at the time of the finalization of this report, the Government had not transmitted a reply to the communications of 5 August 2005, 30 November 2007, 12 August 2008 and 22 September 2008. She considers response to her communications an important part of the cooperation of Governments with her mandate.
2618. The Special Rapporteur welcomes the end of the judicial proceedings against Usaam “Auf” Mukwaya, Onziema Patience, Valentine Kalende, and Julian “Pepe” Onziema. However, she remains concerned about the vulnerability of human rights defenders advocating for the rights of lesbian, gay, bisexual and trangender people in Uganda, and urges the Government of Uganda to create a safe environment conducive to their legitimate work.
Link to full text of the report: Summary of cases-SR Human Rights Defenders-2009-eng