Sunday, September 7, 2014

Anti-Gay bill Annulled

PRESS STATEMENT For Immediate Release: August 1 2014 A Victory for Constitutionalism (Kampala) In the case of Prof. J Oloka-Onyango & 9 Others v. Attorney General (Petition No.8 of 2014)- the Constitutional Court has struck down Uganda’s Anti-Homosexuality Act, 2014 as unconstitutional. The ruling was delivered by a unanimous court of five members by Justices Eldad Mwanguhya and Steven Kavuma on behalf of a unanimous court made of three other justices: Justice Augustine Nshimye, Justice Ruby Opio-Aweri, and Justice Solomy Balungi Bbosa. The case was brought by a cross-section of concerned Ugandan citizens to challenge the constitutionality of the Act on the grounds that it was passed when Parliament did not have the necessary quorum as required by the Constitution and the Parliamentary Rules of Procedure and also that it violated the constitutional guarantees of freedom from discrimination and from cruel, inhuman and degrading punishment, among others. Only the ground of quroum was ruled on. The Court found that the Act should be nullified because there was no quorum in parliament on the day that it was passed as required by the Constitution and the Parliamentary Rules of Procedure, and that the Speaker committed an illegality when she allowed it to be passed without ascertaining that the quorum existed as required by the Constitution and the Parliamentary Rules of Procedure. That this was an illegality and the resultant law could not stand. “The judiciary today has stood for the rule of law and good governance in striking out a law that was passed in a way that contravened the Constitution and the Parliamentary Rules of Procedure. This is a resounding victory for democracy in the country, and confirms that laws passed in violation of the Constitution cannot be allowed to remain on the law books” according to Prof. J Oloka-Onyango, the first petitioner. “This victory is for all Ugandans. It is an affirmation of the independence of the Judiciary and of a growing democracy: despite populist politicians claiming support for the law, the Court has stood up for what is right,’ said Adrian Jjuuko, Executive Director of the Human Rights Awareness and Promotion Forum (HRAPF), the ninth Petitioner. According to sixth petitioner and Executive Director of Sexual Minorities Uganda (SMUG), Frank Mugisha, ‘The striking down of the law removes a big yoke from the necks of many LGBTI persons who were criminalised for simply being who they are’. In the few months since the Anti-Homosexuality Act was passed by Parliament on 20 December 2013, activists recorded a marked increase in cases of violence against people known or suspected to be LGBTI (Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender and Intersex). Sexual Minorities Uganda (SMUG) documented 162 cases of rights violations targeted against the LGBTI community during the period 1st December 2013 to 1st May 2014. The court ruling also comes as a relief to civil society stakeholders and service providers who within weeks of the passing of the Anti-Homosexuality Act in February 2014 were falsely targeted as being engaged in the promotion of homosexuality. The petition was supported by the Civil Society Coalition on Human Rights and Constitutional Law, a Coalition of 50 civil society organisations that was established in 2009 to oppose the then Anti Homosexuality Bill. Clare Byarugaba, Co-Coordinator of the Civil Society Coalition on Human Rights and Constitutional Law asserted, ‘As the Civil Society Coalition, we are excited about this development, and call upon the State to respect the rights of all Ugandans and to uphold the Constitution of the Republic of Uganda.’ For more information, contact: Frank Mugisha +256 772 616 062, Adrian Jjuuko, +256 782 169 505, Geoffrey Ogwaro, +256 782 176 069, Clare Byarugaba, +256 774 608 663,

MPs start process to re-table gay Bill

By SOLOMON ARINAITWE & ISAAC IMAKA Posted Wednesday, September 3 2014 at 01:00 IN SUMMARY Change. MPs had wanted the House to suspend handling of the ongoing Budget process to handle the anti-gays Bill but the request was turned down. nShare Parliament yesterday officially allowed the start of a process which will see the reintroduction of a much stricter law against homosexuality. It was revealed that MPs David Bahati (Ndorwa West) and Benson Obua Ogwal (Moroto County) have written to Parliament asking for a date to be set aside for the re-tabling of the Anti-Homosexuality Bill. The law was struck down by the Constitutional Court on August 1 after the judges agreed with a group of petitioners that it was enacted without quorum in Parliament. Mr Bahati regains the initiative on a Bill he had first tabled in 2009, much to the chagrin of Western countries, which denounced it as an affront to human rights and reacted by cutting donor aid when it was passed into law in December last year. Yesterday, as the House resumed from a mini-recess, Deputy Speaker Jacob Oulanyah, said the two MPs have been granted leave of Parliament to allow them time to prepare the Bill, triggering excitement among members. According to the House Rules of Procedure, once the Bill is re-tabled, it will be referred to a committee where revisions are considered, brought back to the House for debate before proceeding to the third reading- the final stage before the Bill is passed. Mr Oulanyah also indicated that a drive to register MPs in support of the reintroduction of the Bill had garnered the support of 254 MPs - pushing the number much higher than the required one third of all 376 MPs entitled to vote. Shortly after the court nullification, lawmakers led by Kawempe North MP Latif Ssebagala began collecting signatures in support of a plan to immediately reintroduce the law. They wanted the House to suspend handling of the ongoing Budget process, with a proposal that the new Bill be the first on the Order Paper, a request that was turned down yesterday. “We are now focusing on the Budget process and the Bill was already here and we passed it into law. If it had still been within Parliament, it would still be property of Parliament and we would have done whatever necessary to correct the anomalies,” Mr Oulanyah said. “So when we finish the Budget and as soon as the movers of this Bill are ready, we will proceed. When it is introduced, we will handle it appropriately about those issues that were raised that caused the nullification,” he added. Under Uganda’s Penal Code Act, sexual acts “against the order of nature” are already criminalised. By press time, it was unclear whether the two MPs will work alongside a nine-member committee led by Vice President Edward Ssekandi which was proposed by the NRM Parliamentary Caucus sitting on August 12 to look into the human rights issues raised against the law. President Museveni is reported to have advised MPs to go slow in their quest since the issue was delicate. Mr Bahati and Mr Ogwal were not available for comment yesterday as they were held up by the budget debate. Promise detailed review In the letter that Deputy Speaker Jacob Oulanyah read, MPs David Bahati and Benson Obua also promised to look into the other issues raised by pro-gays activists in their petition but which were not disposed of by court. Judges only addressed themselves to the prayer about lack of quorum.

Do not harm homosexuals, Archbishop Odama appeals

By Julius Ocungi Posted Monday, August 18 2014 at 01:00 IN SUMMARY The cleric says gays were created in God’s image but only deviated from a Godly lifestyle. Gulu- The Archbishop of Gulu Archdiocese, John Baptist Odama, has asked Ugandans to avoid harming homosexuals despite the fact that the Constitutional Court nullified the anti-homosexuality law on a technicality of lack of quorum. Bishop Odama said homosexuals are also human beings created in the image of God who only deviated from the Godly way of life. “Let us learn to love God’s human creatures. It is not that I am advocating for homosexual practice in the country, but we should not take laws into our hands to harm and hate the homosexuals because we all have weaknesses,” the Archbishop said. He made the remarks at Holy Rosary Catholic Church in Gulu Municipality at weekend while presiding over a wedding ceremony of Mr Patrick Omony and Ms Margret Akello. “The country has been struggling to have a law to criminalises homosexuality. However, the struggle has been frustrated by the constitutional courts. People should not take the laws into their hands and harm homosexuals, since they are also Human beings though with different sexual feelings,” he said. Archbishop Odama said the fight against homosexuality should focus on sensitising youth on the negative impacts of the practice since the vice contravenes cultural settings and norms. Earlier this month, the Constitutional Court did not rule on the substance of the anti-gay measure which allowed jail terms of up to life for homosexual offences, but threw out the law because it was passed during a session that lacked quorum. In 2012 during the installation of the Archbishop of the Church of Uganda, Stanley Ntagali, President Museveni said “gay people should not be killed or persecuted”.