Ugandan President Signs Anti-Gay Bill, Defying The West

Uganda President Yoweri Museveni signs an anti-homosexual bill into law at the state house in Entebbe

Uganda’s President, Yoweri Museveni, has signed a law imposing harsh penalties for homosexuality on Monday, defying protests from rights groups, criticism from Western donors and a U.S. warning that it will complicate relations.

The new bill strengthened existing punishments for anyone caught having gay sex, imposing jail terms of up to life for “aggravated homosexuality” – including sex with a minor or while HIV positive.

It criminalized lesbianism for the first time and made it a crime to help individuals engage in homosexual acts. Gay rights activists in Uganda said they planned a legal challenge.

Ugandan officials broke into loud applause as President Yoweri Museveni put his signature to the document in front of foreign journalists at his State House outside the capital.

“There’s now an attempt at social imperialism, to impose social values. We’re sorry to see that you (the West) live the way you live but we keep quiet about it,” he said.

The legislation exposes the wide gulf between the continent’s often culturally conservative administrations and many of the foreign donor states that support them. Gambia’s President Yahya Jammeh last week called homosexuals “vermin”.

Western donors immediately criticized Uganda. Norway and Denmark said they were withholding or diverting aid money and Austria said it was reviewing assistance. Britain, a big donor, condemned the new law but did not mention aid cuts.

“I feel sick. The degrading words the president has use…my country is in a state of insanity right now,” said Ugandan gay activist, Kasha Nabagesera, adding that the gay community expected to challenge the bill in the courts.

Gay and lesbian organizations fear the bill will encourage other governments to strengthen penalties, increase harassment, discourage people from taking HIV tests and make it impossible to live an openly gay life.

“Disapproval of homosexuality by some can never justify violating the fundamental human rights of others,” U.N. High Commissioner for Human Rights, Navi Pillay, said in a statement.

Keyamo Alleges Plot To Kill Charles Okah

Counsel to Mr Charles Okah, is alleging a plot to kill the suspected brains behind the 2010 Independence Day bombing of the Abuja Eagle Square in prison.

In a statement, Mr Festus Keyamo has accused the prison authorities of denying Mr Okah access to medication necessary to treat his critical health condition.

According to Mr Keyamo, the Kuje Prisons clinic issued a prescription for “Amlodipine 10m” for treatment of Charles Okah’s High Blood Pressure and hypertension.

He said that after Mr Okah’s wife purchased the drugs and handed them over to the prisons officer in charge, DCP. Felix Lawrence, he seized them and refused to administer the medication to the patient.

The statement added that the events “suggest beyond doubt that there is a plot to kill our client in Kuje Prisons. This is more so because our client, who has only one kidney is hypertensive and also suffers High Blood Pressure regularly”.

Mr Keyamo further compares Charles Okah’s situation to the circumstances that led to the death of Tiemkemfa Osovwo also known as General Gbokos sometime in 2012.

The lawyer is therefore urging the Minister of Interior to compel the prison official, Mr Lawrence to release and administer the said drugs to Mr. Charles Okah within 24 hours, otherwise, he would take further steps to enforce his client’s fundamental human rights.

Law Weekly: Tribute To African Icon, Nelson Mandela

Legal practitioners in Nigeria paid tributes to one of their own, Former South African President, Nelson Mandela who passed on at the age of 95, in the year 2013.

The death of anti-apartheid hero, Nelson Mandela was one of the major high points in the year 2013 which elicited reactions all over the world. Nigerian lawyers took time to pay tribute to the man who used law to champion human rights and democracy in his country.

NHRC To Investigate Human Rights Violation In Rivers

The National Human Rights Commission has vowed to investigate the alleged cases of human rights violations and abuses reported to the commission by the Governor of Rivers state, Mr Rotimi Amaechi.

Answering questions from journalists in Abuja before going into a closed door session with the Rivers state governor, the Executive Secretary of the Commission, Professor Bem Angwe says all persons listed in the petition will be investigated.

He also announced that the Commission will invite the Rivers State Commissioner of Police, Sunday Mbu to defend himself against the accusation of human rights abuses leveled against him by Governor Amaechi.

Group Protests Fate Of Condemned Nigerians In Indonesia

A coalition of Human Rights groups has stormed the Anambra state House of Assembly in a protest to demand the intervention of the lawmakers in the release of 14 Nigerians currently on death row in Indonesia.

The group stated that the prisoners had been condemned to death without fair hearing.

Mr. Anthony Orokoya who led the activists stated that majority of the 14 condemned Nigerians in Indonesia are from Anambra state and that has necessitated their bringing the matter to the representatives of the people for onward presentation to the state government and finally to the federal government for necessary action.

According to the leader of the group, three of the prisoners have been executed and that ignited the move to alert both the government and people of Anambra state, who are mostly affected on the present circumstance that requires urgent intervention.

Mr Orokoya maintained that even if the 14 persons committed the crime for which they are convicted of, they still deserve the right to fair hearing and as such urged the state house of assembly to act within their legislative power to send the necessary signal to appropriate quarters.

Representing the speaker, the House member for Onitsha North 1 Constituency, Chugbo Enwezor, commended the human rights group for their courage and thoughtfulness to bring the petition before the house of assembly.

He also assured them of prompt delivery of their message to the state government.

The activists told the house members that the people of Anambra state are enterprising and industrious and as such should not allow the spirit to die and as the representative of the people should not watch as their able bodied men are exterminated without proper and fair hearing.

Amnesty International Faults Nigeria’s Foreign Minister’s Apology Claim

Human rights organization, Amnesty International, has expressed disappointment over the comments allegedly made by the Minister of Foreign Affairs, Ambassador Olugbenga Ashiru, alleging that Amnesty International has apologised for factual errors in its 2012 report about human rights violations committed by the Nigerian security forces.

Amnesty International’s Deputy Africa Director, Lucy Freeman made this disclosure in a statement released to journalists.

The statement said “Amnesty International is deeply disappointed by the Minister’s comments – the government should be demonstrating its commitment to human rights by investigating credible and serious allegations of human rights violations by its security forces.

“Amnesty International stands by the findings of its report ‘Trapped in the Cycle of Violence’ launched in November 2012.

“Amnesty International has never – publicly nor privately – apologised for any of the contents of the report and stands by its research, conclusions and findings 100 per cent. She added

Freeman noted that “In a meeting with the Attorney General in Abuja on 1 August 2013, Amnesty International reiterated its concerns about grave human rights violations committed by the Nigerian security forces and received assurances from government that it was conducting investigations into them.”

SOuurces say Ambassador Ashiru onTuesday said the group had apologised to Nigeria during the “Human Rights, Human Security and Conflict’’, organised by the Institute of Peace and Conflict Resolution (IPCR).

“Nigerian armed forces have served well over many countries with impeccable record; human rights is part of their training.

“When amnesty was here, they said they were sorry; if you are sorry, you say it outside, let people know. I have given them the invitation to come and open an office so that when they write, it will be factual.

“We are not afraid of our operations because the military keeps to the rule of engagement, that is why there are so many arrests made.’’

Amnesty International in its 2012 report had accused Nigerian security personnel of “unlawful killings, dragnet arrests, arbitrary and unlawful detentions, extortion and intimidation” in some northern parts of the country.

State Of Emergency Has Yielded ‘Very Satisfactory’ Results– Expert

Mike Ejiofor, a former director of the State Security Service and Lawyer has described the result from the   state of emergency declared by President Goodluck Jonathan in some northern states as ‘very satisfactory’.

The former SSS Director who was on Sunrise Daily went further to highlight the positive impact that the declaration of the state of emergency has had on the state and its citizens as they have formed an alliance with the special forces deployed to those states tracking and handing over suspected sect members to the troops.

He commended Nigerians for their patience and understanding even though some notable Nigerians felt that the state of emergency would not achieve the much desired result and the security forces deployed for observing the rules of engagement knowing that the international community is watching and so far no issue has been raised and the troops.

He also asked that the Federal Government be given a pat on the back as it is a government that has witnessed the greatest security challenge since the end of the civil war and despite that the nation is still witnessing development and transformation.

Parade Of Suspects Before Trial Seen As An Abuse of Right

Lawyers condemn the public parade of suspects before trial. That’s the focus of this episode of law weekly with our judiciary correspondent, Shola Soyele.

Also in this edition, senior legal practitioner, Fred Agbaje believes that the police did no wrong in inviting the journalists from leadership newspapers over the publishing of the ‘presidential directive’ while the national coordinator of Legal Assistance and Development Project(LEDAP) says the invitation was aimed at muzzling up the press.

12 Children Knocked Down in Syria Airstrikes

[highlight]Warplanes belonging to the Syrian government carried out airstrikes on a rebel-aligned neighbourhood of the capital, Damascus, killing at least 12 children in the process bringing the total number to 25 people yesterday.[/highlight]

Government jets bombed rebel-held areas in the predominantly Kurdish village of Hadad in the northeastern province of Hassaka, according to the Britain-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights.

It said at least 16 people were killed, including two women and three children.

A Hassaka-based activist who was in Hadad when the planes struck said the bombs sent huge plumes of black smoke billowing over the town. He spoke on condition that he be identified only by his nickname of Abu Qasem – by which he is widely known among his comrades – out of fear of reprisals.

Another airstrike on the Damascus neighbourhood of Qaboun killed at least nine children.

Nigeria @ 52: End poverty in Nigeria, SERAP tells Jonathan

A civil society group, Socio-Economic Rights and Accountability Project (SERAP) has urged President Goodluck Jonathan’s government to mark the country’s 52nd independence anniversary by “urgently committing itself to socio-economic rights reform and end systemic poverty that has remained the bane of millions of Nigerians for decades.”

The organization in a public statement dated 30 September 2012 and signed by its Executive Director, Adetokunbo Mumuni stated that, “The struggle for political freedom and independence from colonization was widely applauded by our people but over five decades after Nigeria gained independence the country’s enormous natural resources and wealth have not been utilized for the prosperity of the country and its peoples. Rather, socio-economic conditions in post-independent Nigeria have remained precarious, and consequently millions of our citizens embarrassingly remain in poverty and misery. For such people, the promises of independence remain unfulfilled.”

According to the organization, “As far as providing for the economic freedom, equality, dignity, welfare and well-being of millions of Nigerians is concerned, this country has remained in permanent transition, and years of broken promises illustrate that successive governments have lacked the necessary political will to achieve the dreams of our founding fathers.”

“Today, high level official corruption is widespread and pervasive. Millions of Nigerians face hunger and malnutrition; several millions of children of school age are out of school—on the street. Everyday, thousands of Nigerian children die of preventable illnesses while tens of thousands of women a year die in pregnancy and childbirth. Several people living with HIV/AIDS are denied access to life-saving medication and treatment. Millions of Nigerians lack access to improved water sources and to improved sanitation,” the group stated.

“Nigerians are deeply sceptical that this government has what it takes to genuinely tackle poverty and provide basic necessities of life to millions of poor citizens. If this government is to be taken seriously it needs to begin urgently to demonstrate sufficient commitment and political will to end high level official corruption, recover stolen funds, and lead the campaign for a constitutional recognition of economic and social rights as legally enforceable human rights,” the group further stated.

“Public office is a public trust. It is therefore essential that those who are privileged to hold high positions in government use their leadership positions not only to shape government policies but also to represent the highest values of morality. SERAP therefore calls on President Goodluck Jonathan to rededicate himself as public servant and to uphold the public trust and to protect Nigerians against the evils of corruption”, the group concluded.

The organization also stated that, “The struggle for political independence will continue to mean little to poor Nigerians as long as this government continues to pay lip-service to or ignore these fundamental issues of human rights at the heart of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (UDHR).”

“Further, although Nigeria has ratified the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights (ICESCR), it has failed to domesticate and make the treaty part of national laws. This failure by the Nigerian government to recognize economic, social and cultural rights of Nigerians as legally enforceable human rights is a betrayal of the vision of the drafters of the UDHR,” the organization added.

Nigerians who commit crime abroad are no lesser citizens – Richard Nwankwo

A Human Right lawyer, Richard Nwankwo on Thursday said that Nigerians involved in crime are no lesser citizens of the country because they have committed crime.

Mr Nwankwo who is also the President of Crusade for Justice – a human rights advocacy group made this comment while speaking as a guest in Channels Television’s Sunrise Daily.

The human rights lawyer was reacting to a Channels Television’s documentary film – Jailed in China and the recent debate on the plight of Nigerians who awaiting execution in various jails abroad by the Senate.