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January 27, 2011, New York – The Center for Constitutional Rights (CCR) issued the following statement in response to news of the death of Ugandan human rights defender and LGBT activist David Kato yesterday:
The Center for Constitutional Rights mourns the loss of Ugandan LGBT activist David Kato, who was beaten to death by an attacker in his home on Wednesday, January 26, in Kampala.
While details of his death are still emerging, what is known is that Kato had recently been featured on the cover of the Ugandan tabloid "Rolling Stone" in an issue dedicated to outing gay leaders and activists in Uganda. His picture appeared under a banner that called for readers to "hang them." He suffered through previous outings, beatings, false charges, detention, evictions, threats and harassment before succumbing to this latest attack.
Kato had long fought for the rights of LGBT people in Uganda and fought vigorously against the intensifying persecution of LGBT people as exemplified in the notorious "anti-homosexuality" bill, also known as the "kill the gays" bill, which was introduced into parliament in 2009. The bill was introduced by Member of Parliament David Bahati, who received training from The Family, a U.S.-based right-wing evangelical network led by David Coe. The bill emerged after a controversial 2009 meeting in Kampala attended by U.S.-based evangelical Scott Lively, who has compared the effect of his work there to a "nuclear bomb" that he hopes is replicated elsewhere.
The bill, which is expected to surface again in Parliament soon, would further criminalize homosexuality beyond what is currently on the books, carrying the death penalty for "repeat offenders." It would also require family members, medical personnel, clergy and others to identify people they suspect of being gay to the authorities or face long sentences of imprisonment. Regardless of whether the bill is ultimately passed into law, it has already intensified the atmosphere of hatred and intolerance in the country.
CCR stands with Sexual Minorities Uganda (SMUG) in calling for the Ugandan government to fully investigate Mr. Kato’s death and to protect sexual minorities across Uganda. CCR echoes the organization’s call on “religious leaders, political leaders and media houses to stop demonizing sexual minorities in Uganda since doing so creates a climate of violence against gay persons.”
Mr. Kato and many other brave activists have spoken out against the injustices they experience on a daily basis and have led the struggle to decriminalize the existence of LGBT people in Uganda. His loss is deeply felt, and CCR stands in solidarity with the courageous LGBT Ugandans who continue to lay claim to their right to live in peace and with equality and justice.
The Center for Constitutional Rights is dedicated to advancing and protecting the rights guaranteed by the United States Constitution and the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. Founded in 1966 by attorneys who represented civil rights movements in the South, CCR is a non-profit legal and educational organization committed to the creative use of law as a positive force for social change.