Ugandan gay rights activist murdered

Just weeks after winning a court victory over a tabloid that called for homosexuals to be killed, David Kato, one of Uganda's most prominent gay rights activists has been murdered in his home.

Witnesses said a man entered Mr Kato's home near Kampala, and beat him to death before leaving.

David had received homophobic death threats after having been pictured and named by Uganda's Rolling Stone magazine in an article that called for gay people to be killed.

Along with other Ugandan gay activists, David had reported increased harassment since early January, when a high court judge granted an injunction against the Rolling Stone tabloid newspaper, preventing it from continuing to identify gays in its pages.

A school teacher, David became a prominent campaigner in recent years, especially taking on the anti-homosexuality bill, which called for the death sentence to be imposed for some gay acts. He was one of the most visible gay campaigners in Uganda, serving as the litigation officer for the group Sexual Minorities Uganda.

Maria Burnett, the Uganda researcher for Human Rights Watch, asked for a "real and substantive investigation" into the murder. "David Kato's death is a tragic loss to the human rights community," she said.

US state department spokesman PJ Crowley said the US was "horrified and saddened" by Mr Kato's death. "The US calls on the Ugandan authorities to actively investigate his murder and bring the perpetrators to justice," he said.

British human rights campaigner Peter Tatchell said: "My sincere condolences to Sexual Minorities Uganda and to the Ugandan LGBTI community concerning the tragic, brutal murder of David Kato.

"I salute David and his immense, brave contribution to LGBTI human rights in Uganda. He was an inspiring campaigner of long and great commitment.

"I urge the government of Uganda to withdraw the 'kill the gays' Anti-Homosexuality Bill, decriminalise same-sex relations and legislate protection for LGBTI people against discrimination and hate crimes".

Widely condemned internationally, the anti-homosexuality bill calls for gay people to be imprisoned for life. Repeat offenders would face the death penalty, while Ugandans would be required to report any homosexual activity within 24 hours or face police action themselves. The bill remains before parliament.

Date: 27 January 2011


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