For Immediate Release
Uganda: Promptly Investigate Killing of Prominent LGBT Activist
David Kato Was Fearless Voice for Human Rights
killing of the prominent human rights activist David Kato, Human Rights
Watch said today. Kato had dedicated his life to fighting for the rights
of lesbians, gays, bisexual, and transgender persons (LGBT) in Uganda,
facing threats and risks to his personal safety.
The government should ensure that members of Uganda's LGBT community
have adequate protection from violence and take prompt action against
all threats or hate speech likely to incite violence, discrimination, or
hostility toward them, Human Rights Watch said.
"David Kato's death is a tragic loss to the human rights community,"
said Maria Burnett, senior Africa researcher at Human Rights Watch.
"David had faced the increased threats to Ugandan LGBT people bravely
and will be sorely missed."
Witnesses told police that a man entered Kato's home in Mukono at
around 1 p.m. on January 26, 2011, hit him twice in the head and
departed in a vehicle. Kato died on his way to Kawolo hospital. Police
told Kato's lawyer that they had the registration number of the vehicle
and were looking for it.
Kato was the advocacy officer for the organization Sexual Minorities Uganda. He had been a leading voice in the fight against the Anti-Homosexuality Bill,
which has been before Uganda's parliament since October 15, 2009. While
homosexual sex is already illegal in Uganda, the proposed law would
criminalize all homosexuality, making it punishable by a fine and life
imprisonment. "Repeat offenders" and those who are HIV positive would be
subject to the death penalty. The bill would also oblige anyone with
knowledge of someone who is or might be a homosexual to report that
person to the police within 24 hours.
The bill has been widely condemned internationally, including by US
President Barack Obama, who called the bill "odious." Kato had said the
bill was "profoundly undemocratic and un-African."
The fight against the bill has also pushed Ugandan activists to the
fore, raising concern for their privacy and safety. These deepened in
late 2010 when a local tabloid called Rolling Stone,
unconnected to the US magazine, published pictures, names, and residence
locations of some members of the LGBT community, along with a headline
saying, "Hang Them." Kato's photo appeared on the cover, and inside
another photo appeared with his name.
Three activists, including Kato, eventually sued the publication and
won on January 3. The judge ruled that the publication had violated
their constitutional rights to privacy and ordered compensation. He also
issued an injunction prohibiting any further publication of the
identities and home locations of individuals labeled homosexuals.
"The Anti-Homosexuality bill has already generated hatred before it
has even been enacted and it should immediately be withdrawn by its
author," Burnett said. "President Yoweri Museveni should categorically
reject the hate that lies behind this bill, and instead encourage
tolerance of divergent views of sexuality and protect vulnerable
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Human Rights Watch is one of the world's leading independent organizations dedicated to defending and protecting human rights. By focusing international attention where human rights are violated, we give voice to the oppressed and hold oppressors accountable for their crimes. Our rigorous, objective investigations and strategic, targeted advocacy build intense pressure for action and raise the cost of human rights abuse. For 30 years, Human Rights Watch has worked tenaciously to lay the legal and moral groundwork for deep-rooted change and has fought to bring greater justice and security to people around the world.