By Daniel M. Austin
Impunity Watch Reporter, Africa
KAMPALA, Uganda – On Wednesday, January 26, a prominent gay rights activist was found murdered in his home on the outskirts of Kampala. The activist, Mr. David Kato was thrown into the international spotlight when Rolling Stone, a Ugandan newspaper, identified him as a homosexual by publishing his name and picture. Above the picture was the caption “Hang Them”. The newspaper article as well as Mr. Kato’s murder has drawn widespread condemnation along with calls for a thorough investigation. Statements condemning the murder have come from officials in the United States as well as human rights group like Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch.
Ugandan security forces have already arrested one suspect and continue to look for additional perpetrators. Investigators believe that the killing took place around noon on January 26, when an intruder entered Mr. Kato’s residence and struck him in the head with a hammer. In Uganda, being killed by an iron instrument like a hammer or tire iron is called “iron-bar killings”. The police have speculated that Mr. Kato’s roommate could have committed this crime however they are unable to locate him. Additionally, the police have noted this crime could be tied in with a series of murders that have taken place in Mr. Kato’s neighborhood.
After the newspaper article was published, Mr. Kato began to receive death threats. Police officials in Kampala have speculated that the murder is related to a theft or burglary and not related to the publication of the article.
In response to the publishing of his picture, Mr. Kato sued the newspaper and had recently won a court battle. The victory provided Mr. Kato with an injunction that prevented the Rolling Stone newspaper from publishing the names and photographs of other prominent homosexuals in Uganda. It was exactly three weeks after the court ruled in Mr. Kato’s favor that he was found bludgeoned to death.
Homosexual acts are forbidden in Uganda. If a citizen is charged with a homosexual act, the punishment is a prison term up to 14 years. A member of the Ugandan Parliament had recently proposed a law that would make the penalties for committing homosexual acts even more severe. In some cases, the punishment would be death.
For more information:
AFP — Uganda gay rights activist murdered: lawyer – 27 January 2011
BBC – Uganda gay rights activist David Kato killed – 27 January 2011
Bloomberg — Ugandan Gay-Rights Activist Kato Beaten to Death by Unknown Attackers – 27 January 2011
Daily Monitor– Police mounts hunt for killers of Ugandan gay rights activist – 27 January 2011
Indian Express — Ugandan gay rights activist killed — 27 January 2011