Uganda denies that 20 arrested people were targeted because they were gay.
Fourteen gay men, two bisexual men and four transgender women were arrested on March 29th when police raided a refuge on the outskirts of the Ugandan capital Kampala. At least four of the 20 people arrested live with HIV and cannot have access to life-saving drugs, according to an activist.
The police accused all 20 people of defying the rules of social distancing, but activists accuse the authorities of using the coronavirus pandemic excuse to target country’s LGBT+ minorities.
Patricia Kimera, a lawyer who is defending the group with the Human Rights Awareness and Promotion Forum, said that those people living with HIV are denied access to antiretroviral drugs and that all 20 of them run the risk of contracting coronavirus while in prison.
“We call upon immediate release of the 20 arrested, it’s a danger to them in this COVID-19 epidemic,” said Kimera, according to the Thomson Reuters Foundation.
It is a violation of their right to health, especially of those who take antiretroviral drugs and cannot access them.
A spokesman for the Ugandan prison service said: “The rights can come when we save lives. We have to save our people – it’s not about law, it’s about life.”
Police said LGBT + people in the shelter were “congesting in a school-like-dormitory setting within a small house,” challenging the recently enacted rules that prohibit gathering groups of more than 10 people.
Deputy police spokesman Patrick Onyango denied at the time of arrest that people had been targeted for LGBT +, saying, “We still have unnatural sex offenses in our law books. We would charge them with that law, but we are charging them with those counts as you can see “
Ugandan President Yoweri Museveni told the public to stay home for 32 days starting March 22 to curb the spread of COVID-19. So far there have been 14 confirmed cases in the country.