Ugandan activists released without charge after brutal police raid on Pride pageant

Illustrated rainbow pride flag on a pink background.

Dozens of activists have been released without charge after a Ugandan police raid on a Pride event – leaving one activist fighting for their life.

Last night, Ugandan police raided the ‘Mr. & Miss Pride Uganda’ LGBT event inside the Venom nightclub in Kampala.

More than 20 people were arrested including prominent Ugandan activist Frank Mugisha, with officers claiming to have received a tip-off about a gay wedding.

Police are facing allegations of brutality as trans women say they had their female clothing and braids torn off, while there are also reports of violent conduct.

According to reports one activist who jumped from a window to escape the raid has now died in hospital.

A release from several Ugandan groups shared by Dr Mugisha states: “The police locked the gates of the club, arrested more than 16 people – the majority of whom are Ugandan LGBT rights activists – and detained hundreds more for over 90 minutes, beating people, humiliating people, taking pictures of LGBTI Ugandans and threatening to publish them, and confiscating cameras.

“Eyewitnesses reported several people – in particular transwomen and transmen – were sexually assaulted by police. One person jumped from a 6-story window to avoid police.”

It was initially reported that the person, who has not been identified, was in critical condition in hospital. Huffington Post reports that they have now died, but others maintain they are in stable condition.

A statement says: “Police claimed they had been told a ‘gay wedding was taking place and that the celebration was ‘unlawful’ because police had not been informed (police had been duly informed, and the prior two Pride events were conducted without incident on Tuesday and Wednesday).”

All the arrestees have now been released without charge.

Dr Mugisha said: “Any force by Ugandan police targeting a peaceful and lawful assembly is outrageous. The LGBTI community stands with all Ugandan civil society movements against police brutality.”

Human Rights Campaign President Chad Griffin said: “The violent raid and arrest of LGBTQ leaders attending a Uganda Pride event is an affront to the universal freedom to peaceably assemble and to the basic dignity of LGBTQ Ugandans.

“Ugandan authorities must stop targeting and persecuting LGBTQ people. The victims of the raid deserve an apology from their government and police force. The world is watching.”

Uganda’s President Museveni signed the draconian Anti-Homosexuality Bill in February 2014. The law called for repeat offenders to be sentenced to 14 years in prison and to make it a criminal offence not to report someone for being gay.

Though the law was struck down on procedural grounds by the country’s Constitutional Court, it still remains illegal to be gay in Uganda.

Uganda last year passed a controversial new law, that could result in the closure of NGOs helping the country’s LGBT population.