Last week saw the arrest and charging of 67 people in a gay-friendly Kampala bar, in a move that is described by activists as a bid to intimidate the LGBTI+ community.
As reported by AFP, police raided the Ram Bar in the heart of Uganda’s capital on Sunday and apprehended 125 people, 58 of whom were subsequently released. The remaining 67 individuals – 61 men and six women, respectively – were, however, charged with the unrelated offence of “common nuisance”.
When approached for comment, police spokesman Patrick Onyango initially told AFP they did not know the bar was hosting an LGBT event on the night of the raid, which was targeted at illegal tobacco and opium use.
Clare Byarugaba from the human rights organisation Chapter Four Uganda, however, told AFP that the police deliberately targeted the bar.
“The police knew who they would be targeting. It’s a crackdown on any space seen to be LGBT-friendly,” Byarugaba said.
“This was intended to intimate and scare LGBT individuals.”
Human rights lawyer Patricia Kimera, who represented many of the accused in court, agreed and told journalists that her clients had not received a “fair hearing”.
“Their rights have not been respected,” Kimera said. “These people were caught having fun in a bar. There’s no evidence they were a common nuisance.”
The controversial arrests follows a similar incident last month when 16 Ugandan LGBTI+ activists were subjected to forced anal examinations after also being arrested.