For immediate release
Geneva, 27 January 2011
The International Commission of Jurists (ICJ) today deplored the
violent killing yesterday of David Kato, a Ugandan human rights
defender and LGBT activist. The ICJ called on the Ugandan authorities
to take immediate steps to investigate the crime and to bring those
responsible to justice in a fair trial.
A teacher by training, David Kato was one of the founding members of
Sexual Minorities of Uganda. As SMUG’s advocacy and litigation
officer, he had been a key figure in the fight against the forces of
homophobia, hatred and intolerance sweeping his country. In the
months before his killing, Kato had received death threats and he
lived in fear for his safety. He was severely beaten at his home in
Mukono District, outside Kampala, by an unknown assailant.
When M.P David Bahati introduced the Anti-Homosexuality Bill in the
Ugandan Parliament in October 2009, which would have imposed the death
penalty for certain same-sex sexual offenses, Kato helped to
coordinate civil society opposition. When a Ugandan tabloid (Rolling
Stone) unleashed a deliberate campaign of terror against the LGBT
community by publishing the names, photographs and addresses of
“Uganda’s top homos” with the headline “Hang Them,” Kato and two other
activists successfully sued the newspaper in the High Court of Uganda.
On 3 January 2011, the Court found that the newspaper had violated
the plaintiffs’ constitutional rights to dignity and privacy and
issued a permanent injunction.
“David Kato was a deeply dedicated and courageous human rights
activist,” said Alli Jernow, Senior Legal Advisor at the International
Commission of Jurists. “He was also a warm and thoughtful soul. He
will be deeply missed.”
The ICJ recalls the words of Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon addressing
the UN Human Rights Council just a few days ago in Geneva: “We must
reject persecution of people because of their sexual orientation or
gender identity … They may not have popular or political support,
but they deserve our support in safeguarding their fundamental human
The ICJ calls attention to the alarming wave of attacks on LGBT human
rights defenders, not only in Uganda, but elsewhere. The ICJ calls
upon the Government to take the necessary steps to ensure that LGBT
individuals are protected from violence and incitement to violence.
The ICJ further urges Ugandan authorities to immediately and
forcefully speak out against hateful and inflammatory rhetoric. As
the Secretary-General has reminded us, human rights are universal.
They belong to all of us simply by virtue of being born human.