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Home / Press Release / U.S. Urged to Recall Ambassador to Uganda for Urgent Consultation on Human Rights Concerns
February 20, 2014

U.S. Urged to Recall Ambassador to Uganda for Urgent Consultation on Human Rights Concerns

Washington, D.C. – Human Rights First today called on Secretary of State John Kerry to recall U.S. Ambassador to Uganda Scott DeLisi for urgent consultation regarding the rapidly deteriorating human rights situation in Uganda. In recent months, Ugandan President Yoweri Museveni has engaged in a repressive crackdown on freedom of expression and association in Uganda. In the past week, he announced that he will sign and enact the discriminatory Anti-Homosexuality Bill that subjects Uganda’s LGBT community to criminal sanctions based on their identity, a step Human Rights First notes is an alarming sign of further assaults on human rights in Uganda.

“The Ugandan Government’s flagrant violations of citizens’ freedom of expression and freedom of assembly calls into question the huge investment the U.S. Government has made in promoting democracy and human rights in the country.” said Human Rights First’s Shawn Gaylord. "It is critical that the Obama Administration reviews the direction of U.S. policy in Uganda and reinforces President Obama’s message that ‘enacting this legislation will complicate our valued relationship with Uganda.’ We expect a plan from the United States and its allies to overturn this law.  In the meantime, we urge the United States to encourage President Museveni to send a clear message to the local police that this law does not license anyone to perpetrate attacks against LGBT people and, if they do so, they will be prosecuted.” 

Human Rights First urges the State Department to convene all of its diplomatic representatives to review whether Uganda and other countries where rampant violence against human rights activists, LGBT people, and others exercising freedom of association and expression can be reliable partners in trade compacts and democracy and governance programs currently underway. Secretary Kerry and Ambassador DeLisi should review the effectiveness of U.S. funding programs in promoting democracy and human rights in Uganda, as well as assess whether any U.S. funds are being used to prosecute people under the Anti-Homosexuality Bill.

Uganda’s Anti-Homosexuality Bill was first introduced in 2009, prompting a global outcry from those who condemned the legislation and affirmed the dignity and humanity of LGBT Ugandans. The bill calls for life imprisonment for “aggravated homosexuality,” defined as a homosexual act where one of the partners is infected with HIV, sex with minors or the disabled, and as repeated sexual offenses among consenting adults. The bill also includes a provision which makes conducting a same-sex marriage ceremony punishable by seven years in prison.

Human rights violations are generally met with poor, if any, government response in Uganda, and the perpetrators often operate with relative impunity. Human Rights First reiterates its categorical opposition to the Anti-Homosexuality Bill which threatens the rights of LGBT people and establishes a dangerous precedent for persecution and violence against minority groups in the country. Human Rights First calls on the United States to urge President Museveni to overturn this law, monitor patterns of hate crime against LGBT people, and address impunity for violent acts.

For more information or to speak with Gaylord, contact Mary Elizabeth Margolis at 212-845-5269 or margolisme@humanrightsfirst.org.