Members of the European Parliament this week passed a resolution calling on Ugandan officials to properly investigate the murder of gay rights activist David Kato who was bludgeoned to death near his home in January. The resolution also calls on the Ugandan government to follow international law and protect its LGBT citizens.
From the European Parliament Press Service:
Following the murder of a well-known gay activist in Uganda in January, MEPs in today’s resolution call on the authorities to conduct investigations and bring the perpetrators to justice.
They add that the EU must take Uganda’s discriminatory attitude towards gay people into account in its bilateral relations and they call on the Member States and the EU institutions “to restate the principle that persons at risk of persecution should be considered for refugee status”.
The tragedy was prompted by the publication in the local tabloid “Rolling Stone” in October and November 2010 of a list of names and addresses of over a hundred allegedly homosexual individuals, including David Kato Kisule. The newspaper incited readers to harm or even hang them. Mr Kato, a human rights defender and leader of the gay and lesbian community, sued the newspaper and won his lawsuit but on 26 January this year he was brutally murdered.
Meanwhile, the Ugandan Parliament is considering an “Anti-Homosexuality Bill” tabled in 2009 with the aim of punishing homosexual acts by between seven years’ and life imprisonment or by the death penalty.
MEPs strongly regret that the Ugandan authorities have “nothing to say” about discrimination against homosexuals. The resolution stresses that they are obliged under international law “to protect all persons – regardless of their sexual orientation or gender identity”. Parliament has repeatedly tried – so far unsuccessfully – to include an explicit mention of the protection of sexual orientation rights in the revision of the second Cotonou Agreement (governing the EU’s partnership with 79 African, Caribbean and Pacific countries).
David Kato was a member of Sexual Minorities Uganda (SMUG) and with the group had sort and secured a court order preventing the further publication of the names and addresses of those the Rolling Stone tabloid (no affiliation to the American publication) had identified among its “Top 100 Homos” list.
Police have now arrested one man, Nsubuga Enock, in connection with Kato’s murder. Enock, who has confessed to killing Kato, reportedly said Kato’s murder was the result of a “personal disagreement” relating to Kato pursuing Enock for sex. Enock, who identifies as heterosexual, said he declined and, after Kato persisted, he bludgeoned Kato to death with a hammer.
U.S. commentators have raised the point that this sounds very much like a version of the so-called “gay panic defense” that was infamously tried and rejected during the U.S. trial concerning murdered Wyoming teenager Matthew Shepard.
Regardless, the Ugandan authorities have been quick to accept this version of events and are adamant that the killing was in no way related to Kato’s activism against the Anti-Homosexuality Bill or that the murder was motivated by simple anti-gay hatred.
Yet, this version of events is heavily disputed by Kato’s close friends who claim that anyone who knew Kato also knew that he would be extremely unlikely to pay for sex and that, at any rate, he would have no money with which to pay as, contrary to media reports, he was extremely poor.
The European Parliament’s resolution comes as WikiLeaks cables released over the past few weeks have revealed that David Kato was mocked by supporters of the Anti-Homosexuality Bill during a speech he delivered at a UN-backed hearing on the legislation.
Other documents specifically refer to the bill’s author David Bahati as a vehement and unchangeable homophobe. They also reveal that even the mere presence of the draft Anti-Homosexuality Bill may have ramped up anti-gay arrests in the country.
From The Guardian:
In the cable, dated 24 December 2009, the diplomat claimed Ugandan politicians, including the author of the anti-homosexuality bill, David Bahati, had channelled anger at the country’s socio-political failings into “violent hatred” of gay people.
Under the heading Comment: Homophobic Demagogues, the diplomat reports in the Christmas Eve cable that Bahati, a born-again Christian MP from the ruling party, had become “further isolated” following “recent condemnations” by high-profile Pastor Rick Warren and other US-based individuals who are against the bill. However, it was clear he would not yield to international pressure.
Referring to Bahati, the diplomat said: “His homophobia … is blinding and incurable.”
In a later cable, dated 16 February 2010, the diplomat reported concerns from activists that the draft bill was already affecting gay people’s lives.
One activist alleged that some gay people had been arrested and detained by authorities and homophobic extremists who were eager to build legal cases in advance of the legislation’s ratification, although the claims were contradicted by another activist who said they were not aware of any arrests. The cable noted that international condemnation of the bill had forced Ugandan leaders to reconsider their initial support of Bahati’s legislation, but that “Ugandan officials continue to give conflicting assessments of the bill’s prognosis”.
The cable concluded “even if the draft bill is shelved in the weeks ahead, rampant homophobia in Uganda won’t go away”.
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