A court in Massachusetts, this US, has dismissed a case by Sexual Minorities Uganda (SMUG) against a US citizen, Scott Lively, and his friends, including Pastor Martin Ssempa.
In a Monday ruling, Justice Michael A. Ponsor dismissed the case on grounds that court never found any evidence pinning Scott Lively on supplying financial backing to SMUG activists in Uganda.
“He directed no physical violence, he hired no employees, and he provided no supplies or other material support,” the judge ruled.
SMUG is a non-profit LGBTI advocacy organisation in Uganda.
In suing Scot Lively, SMUG argued that he had actively participated in the conspiracy to strip away their fundamental rights.
The case, part of Centre for Constitutional Rights’ cutting edge international human rights work and groundbreaking efforts to protect and expand rights under the area of law related to the Alien Tort Statute and defending LGBTI rights, became widely publicised in Uganda after it drew in Pastor Ssempa.
Renowned for his anti-LGBT works, Ssempa was subpoenaed by the US court to testify in the case.
The rights group had argued that Ssempa, a “leading and notorious figure in the persecution of the LGBTI community in Uganda,” was in fact a US citizen.
“Ssempa is not himself a target of the lawsuit, but as a close ally of Scott Lively he has intimate knowledge of key facts in the case. As a witness who is a US citizen, he is subject to the jurisdiction of the US court presiding over the case brought on behalf of Sexual Minorities Uganda against Lively for the role he has played in the persecution of LGBTI people and organisations in Uganda,” the rights organisation had said.
But the court this week said Scott’s most significant efforts on behalf of the campaign occurred within Uganda “itself, when he appeared at conferences, meetings, and media events.”
“The emails sent from the US providing advice, guidance, and rhetorical support for the campaign on the part of others in Uganda simply do not rise to the level of ‘force’ sufficient to displace the presumption against extraterritorial application.
“Moreover, the Ugandan judicial system has weighed in vigorously on the local issues that plaintiff (SMUG) wishes to have this court adjudicate here in the S. For the reasons described above, the court will allow defendant’s (Scott’s) motion to dismiss, finding no jurisdiction under the Alien Tort Statute over plaintiff’s federal claims.”
SMUG had dragged Scott to court accusing him of working with people in Uganda “to repress freedom of expression by LGBTI people in Uganda”.
They claimed that it was Scott’s first contact with Uganda occurred in 2002, when he traveled here twice to participate in a conference, to give speeches, and to make media appearances in which he presented his views about the supposed evils of homosexuality.
In the years that followed these first trips to Uganda, Scott also traveled.to other foreign countries attending meetings and making speeches to encourage persecution of LGBTI people. He apparently built a somewhat of an international reputation for his “virulently hateful rhetoric”.
“During this period the record contains negligible evidence of actions taken by defendant (Scott) from the territory of the US directed specifically at Uganda or the LGBTI community there. In October of 2007, Defendant and Stephen Langa, executive director of the Family Life Network in Uganda, exchanged emails discussing another possible trip to Uganda by defendant to attend a contemplated conference – again on the supposed dangers of homosexuality.
“In 2009, Langa organised the conference. The event was billed as a ‘Seminar on Exposing the Homosexual Agenda,’ and Scott again appeared and spoke. After his return, Scott had further email exchanges with Pastor Ssempa, as well as with James Buturo, a Ugandan cabinet minister (former Ethics and Integrity minister), and David Bahati, a member of the Ugandan parliament. These internet communications discussed a draft piece of legislation being placed before the Ugandan parliament, called the ‘Anti-Homosexuality Bill’, proposing the death penalty for homosexuality.”
It’s against that background that they sought monetary damages and “injunctive relief based on defendant’s crimes against humanity”
On the other hand, Scott requested for a summary judgment in his favour, arguing that, on the facts of record, the Alien Tort Statute provides no jurisdiction over a claim for injuries — however grievous — occurring entirely in a foreign country such as Uganda.