For Immediate Release: January 27, 2011
New York — Human Rights First mourns the slaying of the prominent Ugandan human rights leader David Kato, who was severely beaten in his home with a hammer. His body was discovered in his Kampala apartment yesterday afternoon after the attack and he died on the way to the hospital.
“David Kato will be remembered for his dedication to his community and his country Uganda, where he remained a fearless and outspoken voice for the rights of LGBTI persons in the face of threats to his life,” said Tad Stahnke, HRF’s Director of Policy and Programs. “We send our deepest condolences to our colleagues in Uganda who are shocked by the killing of their charismatic friend and leader.”
“The police must carry out a thorough investigation into this attack, including into the motives behind the actions of the perpetrator. We are concerned by reports that the police may have hastily qualified the attack as aggravated robbery. We call on Ugandan President Museveni to send an unequivocal signal to Ugandans and to the world, condemning and demanding an impartial investigation into the murder, and taking steps to ensure the security of LGBTI activists and individuals,” said Paul LeGendre, HRF’s Fighting Discrimination Program Director.
David Kato worked as an advocate and litigation officer for Sexual Minorities Uganda (SMUG). In October 2010, the Rolling Stone, a self-made magazine, included Kato’s name in the list of prominent gay rights activists and their contact details, with a banner over the photos calling to “Hang Them.” A notable supporter of this “initiative” was David Bahati, the Ugandan parliamentarian who achieved international notoriety for introducing the “Anti-Homosexuality Bill of 2009,” a bill that sought to introduce the death penalty for certain same-sex consensual acts. Commenting on the article, Mr. Bahati said that the campaign “would have been very helpful to law enforcement of these people; it would have been a great source for law enforcement.”
David Kato was one of three litigants to initiate a court challenge to Rolling Stone and on January 3 of this year, the High Court of Uganda ruled that the newspaper had violated the plaintiff’s constitutional rights to dignity and privacy and issued a permanent injunction.
“We can only hope that David’s murder will serve as a wake-up call to Uganda’s leaders of the dangers of silence and inaction in the face of the deadly homophobic environment that has taken root in Uganda and to which many political and religious leaders – in Uganda and abroad – have contributed.” said LeGendre.