More than 20 LGBTQ+ people were arrested by armed police in the city of Ho in Ghana on Thursday, May 20, after a local tip-off. The people arrested were representatives of LGBTIQ civil society organizations holding a training session on protecting vulnerable LGBTIQ people from discrimination. They have been charged with “unlawful assembly”, bail has been denied, and they are due to appear before a judge on June 4.
Same-sex relations between men are criminalized in Ghana with penalties of up to 3 years in prison for those found guilty of “unnatural carnal knowledge.” However, this is not the law applied in relation to this arrest. The charge rendered has been of “unlawful assembly.” However, Article 21 of the Constitution guarantees freedom of assembly and association for all.
Executive Director of OutRight Action International, Jessica Stern, comments:
“The arrest of LGBTIQ people holding a lawful, private gathering about protecting and supporting LGBTIQ people in Ghana is shocking and unacceptable. The basic human rights to freedom of assembly and association, enshrined in the country’s Constitution, should not be limited by anti-LGBTIQ opinions of bystanders or the police. Those detained should be released immediately, and an investigation into how such a blatant violation of rights could take place has to be held.”
Local organizations highlight that this is a clear incident of institutionalized LGBTIQ-phobia, and are calling on authorities for an immediate release of those detained.
Davis Mac-Iyalla, Executive Director, Interfaith Diversity Network of West Africa, comments:
“I am deeply saddened that the Ghana police can act on false alarm to arrest and detain innocent citizens. The human rights defenders arrested and jailed did nothing unlawful, they were exercising their freedom of assembly and association. This illegal arrest is a reflection of the high level of discrimination against minorities in Ghana. I call on the government to condemn the arrest and order the release of the human rights defenders. I also call on religious leaders and all civil society locally and internationally to add their voices to this call.”
Alliance for Equality and Diversity (AfEd), a civil society organization in Ghana, also released a statement.
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