Reports Examine Atrocity Crimes, Minority Stress, International Law
May 22, 2016, Kampala and New York – Today, Sexual Minorities Uganda (SMUG) and the Center for Constitutional Rights (CCR) released three independent expert reports submitted in conjunction with SMUG’s lawsuit against the U.S.-based anti-gay extremist Scott Lively charging him with conspiring to persecute the lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and intersex (LGBTI) community in Uganda.
Said SMUG Executive Director Frank Mugisha, “These reports by renowned experts in their fields confirm what life is like for LGBTI Ugandans, from the dangers we face to the impact on our health and well-being every day.”
In March 2012, SMUG filed a lawsuit against Scott Lively for his role in the persecution of the LGBTI community in Uganda. SMUG, represented by the Center for Constitutional Rights, is suing Scott Lively for his involvement in a conspiracy with Ugandan anti-gay leaders to systematically deprive the LGBTI community of their fundamental rights in violation of international law. The case affirmed an important legal precedent when the court ruled, in a historic decision denying Lively’s motion to dismiss, that persecution on the basis of sexual orientation and gender identity is a crime against humanity – a serious crime under international law.
Said Center for Constitutional Rights Senior Attorney Pam Spees, “The reports underscore the seriousness of the situation LGBTI people face in Uganda – on both a personal and political level. They paint a clear picture of just how dangerous and harmful the politics of intolerance and exclusion are and why international law treats persecution as one of the world’s most serious crimes.”
Independent experts are often used in U.S. litigation to provide a specialized level of knowledge or expertise on subjects relevant to the case. The three are:
1. Dr. Jennifer Leaning, a public health expert and current Director of the Francois-Xavier Bagnoud Center for Health and Human Rights at Harvard University, analyzed the situation of the LGBTI community in Uganda using the United Nations’ Framework Analysis for Atrocity Crimes and found that indicators revealed ongoing atrocity crimes against the LGBTI community that, when combined with potential triggering events, could unleash even more widespread and severe violations and violence and that an alarming number of indicators for genocide are also present for the LGBTI community in Uganda.
2. Dr. Ilan H. Meyer, a distinguished scholar at the Williams Institute at the University of California, Los Angeles, School of Law and expert on “minority stress,” which describes the impact of discrimination and prejudice on the health of LGBT populations, explains how stigma and persecution create a harmful state of fear and stress for LGBT people, legitimize their unequal treatment, and erect multiple barriers to health services and systems of support. Significantly, Dr. Meyer notes that while laws can serve to “eradicate and dismantle stigma,” they can also serve as “perhaps the strongest of social structures that uphold and enforce stigma.” In analyzing the situation in Uganda, Dr. Meyer observes that with a backdrop characterized by homophobia and where same-sex acts were already illegal, “the Anti-Homosexuality Bill and later the AHA sent a clear message of rejection that dehumanized LGBT people by making their very identity as LGBT a ‘spoiled identity.’”
3. Leading expert on international criminal law Professor M. Cherif Bassiouni explains that “crimes against humanity,” which include persecution, constitute a well-established category of international crimes. He looks at the law and concludes that the crime against humanity of persecution – including persecution on the basis of sexual orientation and gender identity – is a crime under international law.
Go here to read a summary of the reports and the reports themselves.
Learn more about SMUG v. Lively here.
Sexual Minorities Uganda is represented by Center for Constitutional Rights and Jeena Shah of the International Human Rights Clinic at Rutgers Law School-Newark, Judith Chomsky, Christopher Betke, Luka Ryan and the law firm of Dorsey & Whitney, LLP.
Sexual Minorities Uganda (SMUG) is non-profit umbrella organization for LGBTI advocacy groups in Uganda. SMUG was founded in 2004 and the network currently comprises 18 organizations in Uganda offering counseling, health, and other services, to the LGBTI community. As an umbrella entity, SMUG also works closely with international human rights organizations to bring attention to the persecution of LGBTI people in Uganda. To learn more about SMUG, visit their website.
The Center for Constitutional Rights works with communities under threat to fight for justice and liberation through litigation, advocacy, and strategic communications. Since 1966, the Center for Constitutional Rights has taken on oppressive systems of power, including structural racism, gender oppression, economic inequity, and governmental overreach. Learn more at ccrjustice.org.
May 23, 2016