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Court to deliver judgement on anti-homosexuality law tomorrow

The Constitutional court has fixed April 3, 2024 as the date when it will deliver its long waited judgement in the case in which activists are seeking to nullify the Anti Homosexuality Act of 2023 for criminalizing consensual sex among same-sex adults.      

According to the summons issued to the deputy registrar Susanne Okeny Anyala, the judgement in which 11 law firms represent the applicants in four consolidated petitions filed against the attorney general and pastor Martin Ssempa will be delivered at 10 am tomorrow. 

The recipients of the notice are; Attorney General’s Chambers, Deluxe Associated Advocates, Onyango and Company Advocates, Human Rights Awareness and Promotion Forum, Thomas and Michael Advocates, Akampumuza and Company Advocates, TASLAF Advocates, MAGNA Advocates, Elgon Advocates, Tumukunde and Company Advocates and Sage Advocates.  

“If no appearance is made on your behalf, by yourself/your pleader or someone authorized by law to act for you, the judgement will be delivered in your absence,” reads the notice.  

On December 18, 2023, the Constitutional court comprised of the deputy chief justice Richard Buteera, Geoffrey Kiryabwire, Muzamiru Mutangula Kibeedi, Monica Mugenyi, and Christopher Gashirabake concluded hearing of four consolidated petitions and promised to deliver their judgment on notice. 

The main four consolidated petitions stem from various groups such as civil society organizations politicians, including West Budama MP Fox Odoi and seven others, Makerere University Professor Sylvia Tamale Dr Busingye Kabumba and seven others, lawyer Robert Rutaro and three others, and Bishop James Lubega Banda.

These petitioners are pushing for the removal of the law that criminalizes consensual sex among same-sex adults. The petitioners argue that the anti-homosexuality law, aside from imposing severe penalties such as death and heavy fines, infringes upon constitutional articles relating to personal freedoms, human rights, and dignity while hindering the fight against HIV/Aids.

Some of the issues listed by the parties for determination include among others whether the Anti-Homosexuality Act alters the decision and or judgments of the court in contravention of Article 92 of the Constitution and whether the private members bill that introduced the Anti-Homosexuality Act 2023 imposes a charge on the consolidated fund or any other public fund in contravention of Article 93(a) (ii) of the Constitution.

Whether the Anti Homosexuality Act 2023 was enacted without meaningful and adequate public participation in contravention of national objectives and directives of state policy and the constitution, whether the conduct of the speaker of parliament during the process of enacting the law was inconsistent with the constitution among other issues.

Among other grounds for the petition is that the complainants contend that the Anti-Homosexuality Act 2023 alters a 2014 Constitutional court decision that nullified a similar law and is therefore inconsistent with Article 92 of the Constitution. The petitioners also note that the law was passed within a record period of six days instead of the 45 days provided for by the rules of parliament.

They say that the public was also not adequately consulted before the law was passed. However, in his defense, the Attorney General now joined by pastor Ssempa wants the petitions dismissed with costs for being incompetent and for lack of merit. 

According to the Attorney General, while relying on the affidavit of Bugiri Municipality MP, Asuman Basalirwa, the mover of the bill, the petitions were not only brought in bad faith but were filed with intentions to destroy and overthrow the Constitutional social order by seeking court orders for the protection of an unconstitutional and illegal act of has threatened aid cuts and travel sanctions against Ugandan government officials, condemning the enactment of this law as a tragic violation of human rights. 

Similar reactions occurred in the past, with Western governments suspending aid, imposing visa restrictions, and curtailing cooperation after the law’s nullification in 2014 due to insufficient quorum. Several Western countries, including the European Union, have criticized the law, labeling it discriminatory, degrading, and inhuman, contrary to international laws Uganda has ratified. 

On May 26, 2023, President Yoweri Kaguta Museveni assented to the Anti Homosexuality Bill of 2023 thereby turning it into law. In response to his decision, various Western powers, such as the United States and the European Union, threatened sanctions, fund withdrawal, and trade pact annulments because the law was discriminatory and contrary to international standards. The USA alone declared its intention to remove Uganda from the African Growth and Opportunity Act (AGOA) trade pact in January 2024. This decision stems from the U.S. assessment that Uganda’s recent law undermines democratic processes.

Additionally, the US also called for a court decision by January 1, 2024, regarding the law, which has faced criticism from other countries for being discriminatory, degrading, and inhumane, contradicting international laws ratified by Uganda. Similarly, the World Bank announced its decision to suspend new loans to Uganda due to concerns that the law contradicts the fundamental values upheld by the US-based lender. 

However, President Museveni has since occasionally indicated that he is not bothered by the pressure from Western nations over his decision to sign the Anti-Homosexuality Bill into law, saying that while others may worry, he does not. 

Museveni, emphasizes Uganda‚Äôs ability to stand independently, highlighting the country’s historical resilience and rich indigenous heritage lasting over 2000 years. He said the economy will grow in-spite of their pressures.

Source: The Observer