Rights Groups Demand Release of 21 LGBTQ Activists Arrested for ‘Unlawful Assembly’ in Ghana

Several rights groups have called for the release of 21 people whom Ghanaian police arrested for “unlawful assembly” for attending a lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, queer, and intersex (LGBTQI+) conference.

According to a police statement, the police detained 16 women and five men, who “were advocating LGBTQI activities,” at a hotel in the city of Ho last May 20, adding that the arrested will appear before the court on June 4.

The arrests sparked condemnation from several rights groups, calling the arrests illegal and demanding for the detainees to be released.

LGBT+ Rights Ghana and OutRight Action International described the arrests as “unacceptable.”

“The police is supposed to protect us, not discriminate against us,” LGBT+ Rights Ghana said on Twitter.

“There is no law preventing advocates or LGBTQ+ people from existing or gathering. It’s a constitutional right,” Founder and Director of LGBT+ Rights Ghana Alex Kofi Donkor told British news outlet The Guardian.

Donkor said that the event was to train attendees on “paralegal services for vulnerable groups – how we can document issues of abuse, and how best these trained paralegals can provide support.”

OutRight Action International Executive Director Jessica Stern called for an investigation on what she described as a “blatant violation of rights.”

In a statement, the Alliance for Equality and Diversity urged President Nana Akufo Addo to order the police to close the case and “let these law-abiding citizens free.”

The charge on unlawful assembly carries a maximum prison sentence of three years.

The arrests come as the latest move against sexual minorities in the West African country.

According to Donkor, abuse targeting the LGBTQI+ community in Ghana has sharply increased this year.

Last Feb. 24, police raided and shut down offices of LGBT+ Rights Ghana in the capital of Accra.

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