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East African Court Disallows Amicus Curiae in Anti-Homosexuality Act Challenge

The East African Court of Justice (EACJ) dismissed the applications filed by the organizations, UHAI EASHRI and HDI-Rwanda in their attempt to join the case filed by HRAPF on behalf of the Coalition challenging sections of the nullified Anti-Homosexuality Act in the EACJ.

"The East African Court of Justice First Instance Division on 17th February 2015 delivered a ruling on two consolidated applications instituted by UHAI EASHRI (first Applicant) and Health Development Imitative Rwanda (second Applicant) seeking to be joined as amicus curiae in a case between Human Rights Awareness and Promotion Forum ( Applicant) and the Attorney General of the Republic of Uganda (Respondent). In this case Human Rights Awareness and Promotion Forum is contesting the validity of certain sections of Uganda’s now repealed Anti-Homosexuality Act, 2014 in so far as they allegedly violated Articles 6(d), 7(2) and 8(1) (c) of the EAC Treaty.” The Anti-Homosexuality Act was already challenged in the Ugandan Courts and found to be invalid on the basis of a parliamentary voting technicality, as there was no quorum when the Act was passed. Ugandan Courts never ruled on the human rights and constitutional issues raised in the case. HRAPF for the Coalition, also filed a case challenging sections of the Act in the EACJ, and several parties joined, now finding their cases have been dismissed.

The first Applicant (UHAI EASHRI) sought to be joined as amicus curiae in the case on grounds that being an organisation that seeks to influence positively policies and practices on human and sexual rights; it had an interest in the conduct and outcome of the case. Further, they are actively involved in the promotion and development of human and sexual rights in the East African region and therefore have sufficient expertise in the area of human and sexual right that could assist the court in resolving the complex questions posed in the case.

While, the second Applicant (Health Development Initiative Rwanda) gave the reason that it is an organization involved in advocating on health rights and therefore it had an interest in the outcome of the case in so far as it pertains to human rights violations.

The court in disallowing the applications ruled that, it would be neither justified nor just or in the interests of justice to grant leave to the first Applicant (UHAI EASHRI) to appear as amicus curiae considering the fact that it does not pass the test of neutrality that is so pertinent to the role of an amicus curiae.

On the second Applicant (Health Development Initative Rwanda) the Court ruled inter alia that, it has not demonstrated an interest in the outcome of the case that would warrant its appearance as amicus curiae. Secondly, the Court did not find sufficient demonstration that its decision in the case would impact the second Applicant’s activities given its territorial scope of operation. Hence, both applications were disallowed with costs to the Attorney General of the Republic of Uganda. HRAPF noted in its summary on the outcome: "This was on the basis that HDI did not have 'interest' in the matter since its founding documents restrict it to work in only Rwanda and yet the AHA is a strictly Uganda law applicable only in Uganda. UHAI EASHRI was found to have 'interest' in the matter since their founding documents allow them to work in the whole region, but their application too was dismissed because they could not be 'neutral' since they have a partisan interest in the matter.

Despite this outcome, we applaud UHAI EASHRI and HDI standing up and taking the decision, time, and resources required to apply to be joined as amicii." HRAPF spokesperson further stated: "As regards contribution to jurisprudence which is also an important aim of this kind of litigation, the ruling helps to clarify the EACJ's stand on the issue of 'interest' and 'neutrality' as regards those who want to be amicus curiae. It also makes an interesting distinction between amicus curiae and intervenors which will go a long way in helping third parties to determine the best way to contribute to a case. The case also makes a clarification that the locus required to bring a reference is not necessarily the same as that required for one to join as an amicus curiae or an intervenor."

See the Judgment here

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