Current Affairs

Amnesty condemns arrests of Uganda AIDS conference protesters

Tony Grew June 6, 2008
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A leading human rights group has said it is concerned for the welfare of three gay protesters who forced their way into an international conference about HIV/AIDS prevention in Uganda organised by the UN.

There has been rising tension in the country over gay and lesbian rights.

Trans people are also targeted by police and regularly subjected to abuse and harassment.

Amnesty UK’s director said that the protesters, two women and a man, may face harassment while in prison and called for their release.

“We consider these three to be prisoners of conscience, detained for their peaceful activism,” said Kate Allen.

Their protest was sparked earlier this week when the head of Uganda’s AIDS commission said that gay people are driving up the number of infections in the country, but would not be targeted with prevention work.

Kihumuro Apuuli claimed a lack of money prevents him from giving any attention or treatment to gay people.

The international meeting was organised by an international group of countries and organisation, among them the US, the World Bank, the UN.

More than a million of Uganda’s 27 million people are already HIV+.

Mr Apuuli, chairman of the Uganda AIDS Commission, said on Monday:

“Gays are one of the drivers of HIV in Uganda, but because of meagre resources we cannot direct our programmes at them at this time.”

Government officials have regularly threatened and harassed lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender Ugandans.

Uganda’s penal code carries a maximum penalty of life imprisonment for homosexual conduct, while ‘attempts’ at carnal knowledge get a maximum of seven years of imprisonment.

Three months ago the former Archbishop of Cape Town and Nobel Peace Prize laureate Desmond Tutu joined 120 Christian and Jewish leaders in a call to the government of Uganda to stop homophobia in the country.

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