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Uganda: last chance to shelve Anti-Homosexuality Bill should not be missed, warn UN human rights experts

GENEVA (1 March 2010) – With its third and final reading imminent before the Ugandan Parliament, two UN Special Rapporteurs* voiced their deep concerns about the Anti-Homosexuality Bill, which, if adopted, would have an extremely damaging impact on the important and legitimate work of human rights defenders in the country, and would curtail fundamental freedoms.

“The Bill would not only violate the fundamental rights of lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender Ugandan people,” stressed Margaret Sekaggya and Frank La Rue, “but would also criminalize the legitimate activities of men and women, as well as national and international organizations, who strive for the respect for equality and non-discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation.”

According to the Bill, in addition to a fine, the offender would face imprisonment of at least five years, and in the case of a non-governmental organization, the cancelling of its certificate of registration and criminal liability for its director.

“The Bill would further unjustifiably obstruct the exercise of the right to freedoms of opinion and expression, peaceful assembly, and association, by prohibiting the publication and dissemination of materials on homosexuality, as well as funding and sponsoring related activities,” the Special Rapporteurs said.

The experts welcomed “the recent attempts made by President Museveni and other members of the Government to prevent the Bill from becoming law, and call on them to redouble their efforts at this crucial time.”

“We urge Parliamentarians to refrain from adopting this draconian Bill,” said the independent experts echoing previous statements made by the UN human rights chief, Navi Pillay, and the UN Special Rapporteur on health, Anand Grover.

“Adopting the Bill would be in clear breach of international human rights norms and standards contained in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, the Declaration on Human Rights Defenders and the African Charter on Human and Peoples’ Rights,” warned Ms. Sekaggya and Mr. La Rue.

“The passage of the Anti-Homosexuality Bill,” they noted, “would also gravely tarnish the image of Uganda on the regional and international scenes.”

(*) Ms. Margaret Sekaggya, Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights defenders, and Mr. Frank La Rue, Special Rapporteur on the promotion and protection of the right to freedom of opinion and expression.