Homosexuals in Uganda excited over court ruling
19 August 2013, 18:22
Kampala - Gays and Lesbians in Uganda are thrilled after a US court allowed case against anti-gay religious leader to proceed.
Gays and lesbians in Uganda, under the organisation Sexual Minorities Uganda (SMUG) have happily welcomed last week's court ruling in their favor by US Federal judge.
In what SMUG programme director, Julian Pepe Onziema, reffered to as the historic ruling, the judge rejected a motion to dismiss a crimes against humanity case brought by Sexual Minorities Uganda (SMUG) against evangelical Pastor Scott Lively of Massachusetts.
The judge ruled that persecution on the basis of sexual orientation and gender identity is indeed a crime against humanity and that the fundamental human rights of Lesbian Gay Bisexual Transgender and Intersex [LGBTI] people are protected under international law.
“Widespread, systematic persecution of LGBTI people constitutes a crime against humanity that unquestionably violates international norms,” said Judge Michael Ponsor.
“The history and current existence of discrimination against LGBTI people is precisely what qualifies them as a distinct targeted group eligible for protection under international law. The fact that a group continues to be vulnerable to widespread, systematic persecution in some parts of the world simply cannot shield one who commits a crime against humanity from liability.
''The ruling means that the Center for Constitutional Rights (CCR), who brought the case on behalf of Sexual Minorities of Uganda (SMUG), can move forward over defendant Scott Lively’s request to dismiss the lawsuit,'' Onziema said.
The lawsuit alleges that Lively’s actions over the past decade, in collaboration with key Ugandan government officials and religious leaders, are responsible for depriving Ugandan Lesbian Gay Bisexual Transgender and Intersex people of their fundamental human rights based merely on their identity, which is the definition of persecution under international law and is deemed a crime against humanity. This effort bore fruit most notably in the introduction of the infamous Anti-Homosexuality Bill commonly known as “The Kill the Gays bill”, which Lively abetted.
Frank Mugisha, the Executive Director of SMUG said, “This ruling should be a clear signal to extreme religious groups all over the world, and especially those that spread hate here in Uganda, that their hatred will not go unpunished by the arm of the law.”
Lively has also been active in countries like Russia where a new law criminalising gay rights advocacy was recently passed. In 2007, Lively toured 50 cities in Russia recommending some of the measures that are now law.
“We are gratified that the court recognised the persecution and the gravity of the danger faced by our clients as a result of Scott Lively’s actions. Lively’s single-minded campaign has worked to criminalise their very existence, strip away their fundamental rights and threaten their physical safety,” Said CCR Attorney Pam Spees.
U.S. law allows foreign citizens to sue for violations of international law in U.S. federal courts under the Alien Tort Statute (ATS).
The case, Sexual minorities Uganda versus Lively was originally filed in federal court in Springfield, MA, in March 2012. Sex minorities Uganda (SMUG) is an advocacy network comprised of 18 member organisations committed to advocating for the rights of lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and intersex people in Uganda.
However, homosexuality in Uganda is illegal and there are already some laws against it. A legislator, David Bahati, drafted private members anti homosexuality bill with severe punishment of those caught in the act which awaits to be discussed and passed by parliament although it has so far received criticism from international human rights bodies.