Kabuye Najibu, of the LGBT group Youth on Rock Foundation, was arrested in Uganda today while visiting his co-worker who had been arrested on New Year’s Eve.
Najibu has been arrested on charges which relate to homosexuality, and could possibly include the unfounded allegation of ‘recruitment into homosexuality’, which does not exist under Ugandan law.
Frank Mugishu, of the Sexual Minorities of Uganda (SMUG) charity, told GSN that Najibu was arrested when he entered Kawempe police station in order to bring food to his detained friend and colleague Joseph Kaweesi.
According to Melanie Nathan, South African attorney and LGBT rights advocate based in the USA, both Najibu and Kaweesi have been arrested for ‘crimes relating to homosexuality’ and ‘recruitment into homosexuality’.
In November 2012, Rebecca Kadaga, the speaker of the parliament of Uganda, promised to enact a revised anti-homosexuality bill (AHB), providing for harsher penalties against suspected LGBT people and anyone who fails to report them to authorities, including long-term imprisonment and the death penalty for what the law terms ‘repeat offenders’. The notion of ‘recruiting’ is implicit in the AHB bill.
Neither bail nor a trial date has been set.
A third man, according to Nathan, whose identity has not disclosed for his own safety, was with Najibu at the time and witnessed the arrest, but managed to escape.
The witness stated that the police officers had Kaweesi and Najibu’s Facebook pages open on their computers when he was present and told it may be used as ‘evidence’ to convict the two.
Nathan expressed concern that the police may be targeting Ugandan human rights defenders through Facebook posts.
Mugishu told GSN that the police have been extracting information out of Kaweesi through interrogation and this may lead to further arrests.
He said: ‘We are liaising with the police at all levels, working hard to get them both released, I hope by tomorrow.
‘My fear is, however, that by interrogating the two, the police are collecting as much information as they can – they already are very likely to have by now a list of names, telephone numbers and addresses.
‘The police are operating in the same neighbourhood of the two - they know them by name, by face and their parents.
‘They have most likely been following the meetings of the youth group for sometime now – so this operation is coordinated and planned’.
Earlier this week, the office of SMUG was broken into and vandalized, with much its equipment having being stolen.
Activists stated that the information stored on some of the computers, containing addresses and telephone numbers of LGBT Ugandans may now put them at risk.
Speaking with GSN Nathan said: ‘It is no coincidence, in my opinion, that these men have been arrested shortly after the offices of SMUG had been broken into, where computers hosting sensitive information were stolen.
‘It seems to me that the frustration engendered by Speaker Kadaga's failure to deliver the AHB by Christmas has unleashed a wave of heightened and illegal persecution against gays’.
Nathan also stated that she has been contacted by members of the Ugandan LGBT community who say that they have gone into hiding.