United Nations human rights experts have urged the government to release 21 suspected lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, queer and intersex (LGBTQI) people who were arrested for unlawful assembly at the Nurses and Midwives Hotel, Ho on May 21, 2021.
In a statement condemning the arrest and alleged arbitrary detention of the persons, the UN experts said the 21 were arrested for “defending the rights of lesbian, gay, bisexual, trans and gender diverse (LGBT) community”.
“We are deeply concerned by the arrests of the human rights defenders. All evidence available to us points to the fact that they were detained while they were peacefully exercising their rights to freedom of expression, peaceful assembly and association,” the UN’s independent human rights experts said in a statement.
“Human rights defenders play a key role in protecting vulnerable groups from violence and discrimination and empowering them to claim their human rights. Ghana should ensure that no one is criminalised for defending the fundamental rights of LGBT people.”
The experts also pointed out that the root of the arrests allegedly lies in the criminalisation of consensual same-sex conduct.
In Ghana, same-sex sexual activity falls under the definition of “unnatural carnal knowledge”, under section 104 of the Criminal Offences Act, 1960, which imposed a maximum penalty of three years’ imprisonment.
“Detention on discriminatory grounds, including for combating violence and discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity, is arbitrary by its own nature and violates international human rights law. The Government of Ghana must release them immediately and unconditionally,” the experts said.
The UN experts are: Victor Madrigal-Borloz, Independent Expert on protection against violence and discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity; Elizabeth Broderick (Chair), Melissa Upreti (Vice Chair), Dorothy Estrada-Tanck, Ivana Radačić, and Meskerem Geset Techane, Working Group on discrimination against women and girls; Irene Khan, Special Rapporteur on the promotion and protection of the right to freedom of opinion and expression; Mary Lawlor, Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights defenders; Leigh Toomey (Chair-Rapporteur), Elina Steinerte (Vice-chairperson), Mumba Malila, Miriam Estrada-Castillo, Priya Gopalan, Working Group on arbitrary detention; Clément Nyaletsossi Voule, Special Rapporteur on the rights to freedom of peaceful assembly and of association.
The “suspects,” who had come from across the country, “were advocating for LGBTQI activities,” the Ghana Police Service in Ho said in a statement. They are facing charges of unlawful assembly.
“The command is cautioning the public, particularly parents, to be wary of activities of persons involved in this misbehaviour and report them to the police,” the Police said.
The activists will appear in court today (June 4).