Twenty MPs have signed an early day motion to attack Uganda’s plans to introduce the death penalty for gays.

The motion was tabled by Labour MP Harry Cohen and calls for the British government and European Union to press Uganda not to proceed with the law.

It adds that the bill “violates the equality and non-discrimination provisions of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and the African Charter of Human and People’s Rights”.

The motion calls on the government to ask Uganda to “uphold international humanitarian law” by decriminalising homosexualty and outlawing discrimination.

Early day motions are usually not debated in the House of Commons. Instead, they are used to draw attention to a wide range of matters.

Uganda’s proposed anti-homosexuality bill would impose the death sentence on some homosexual acts and imprisonment for related offences, such as “aiding and abetting” homosexuality and failing to report it to police.

The law would also apply to Ugandan citizens living abroad.

Gay rights campaigner Peter Tatchell has encouraged people to ask their local MPs to sign the motion.

He thanked Cohen for tabling it and added: “We hope the early day motion will send a signal from the British parliament to the Ugandan government that the anti-homosexuality bill constitutes an unacceptable attack on the human rights of Uganda’s lesbian, gay and bisexual citizens.”

Yesterday, Uganda’s president Yoweri Museveni said that the bill “must take into account our foreign policy interests”.

He added: “The prime minister of Canada came to see me and what was he talking about? Gays.

“Prime minister Gordon Brown came to see me and what was he talking about? Gays.

“Mrs Clinton [the US secretary of state] rang me. What was she talking about? Gays.”

Sweden has also threatened to cut aid to the country.