Uganda’s Attorney General Appeals Ruling That Struck Down Anti-Homosexuality Act

The news could cast a pall over a pride event planned in the Ugandan capital on Saturday.

President of Uganda Yoweri Museveni (second from left) with U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry (center) and presidents of three other African countries in Washington this week. Yuri Gripas / Reuters

The attorney general of Uganda has filed a notice that he will appeal last week’s ruling by the Constitutional Court striking down the country’s Anti-Homosexuality Act, according to Nicholas Opiyo, one of the attorneys on the legal team challenging the law.

A copy of the notice was not immediately available, but Opiyo — who is in Washington for events surrounding the U.S.-African Leaders Summit — told BuzzFeed another lawyer on the legal team had been formally served notice late on Friday Uganda time.

This may cast a shadow over a pride event that Ugandan LGBT activists are preparing to hold in Kampala on Saturday. This is the third year the event has been held, and the first time that it was due to be held without the threat of the law hanging over the LGBT community. The bill, which was first proposed in 2009, initially would have established the death penalty as a punishment for homosexuality, but that was downgraded to a maximum of life in prison before parliament voted it into law on December 20. The law in question also criminalizes promoting LGBT rights and “abetting” homosexuality.

LGBT advocates were tweeting excitedly about the event with anticipation as word came the ruling would be appealed.

Uganda’s constitutional court struck down the law last Friday on technical grounds, saying that parliament had broken its own rules when it voted on the bill on December 20, because not enough MPs were in the chamber to conduct official business when the vote was held.

The court heard the case last week over the strong objections of the representative from the attorney general’s office, Patricia Mutesi, who requested a delay in proceedings because she had not fully prepared her arguments. The court was originally scheduled to take the case up in September, but informed attorneys that it wanted to hear arguments in July with less than one week’s notice. The court had also refused Mutesi’s request to stay the decision to proceed with the trial so that she could appeal to the supreme court for a longer delay, and this may be the basis of the appeal.

The court’s swift hearing of the case was unusual in a system where cases can drag on for years, so there had been much speculation that the court was under pressure from President Yoweri Museveni to kill the bill before he flew to Washington on Sunday to participate in the summit convened by the White House. If political pressure was behind the action, some had assumed that the attorney general would also be pressured not to appeal the ruling.

Parliamentarians have also launched an effort to pass the law again with a quorum present, gathering more than 100 signatures calling for suspension of parliamentary rules to allow for an immediate re-vote. But the bill’s original sponsor, MP David Bahati, sounded cool to the idea in an interview with BuzzFeed. Bahati is a member of the leadership of Museveni’s National Resistance Movement, and his reluctance suggests the party is not looking to rush into a new fight over the legislation.

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