US District Court grants summary judgement in Scott Lively case

By hrapf
In June 9, 2017

The United States District Court for the District of Massachusetts has allowed defendant Scott Lively’s motion to dismiss the case against him on the basis that the Court’s jurisdiction could not be established. The case was instituted by Sexual Minorities Uganda (SMUG) under the Alien Tort Statute (ATS). SMUG sought monetary damages and injunctive relief on the basis of the crimes against humanity committed by Lively in Uganda. Lively, in turn, sought summary judgement on the basis that the ATS does not provide an American court jurisdiction over a claim for injuries occurring entirely in a foreign country. The court concluded that this argument is correct.

From 2002, Lively, who is an American author and evangelist, has played an active role in the repression of the LGBTI community in Uganda in various ways. On two occasions, he travelled to Uganda in order to give speeches and make media appearances in which he presented his views about the evils of homosexuality. He has also worked with MP David Bahati and James Buturo, a cabinet minister, to have the Anti-Homosexuality Bill placed before Parliament which would impose severe penalties for homosexuality.

In the case at hand, the Court was called upon to answer the narrow and technical question of whether Lively’s actions that were carried out on American soil in pursuit of his campaign against the LGBTI community in Uganda were sufficient to give the court jurisdiction over SMUG’s claims. The Court, relying on the 2013 Supreme Court decision in Kiobel v Royal Dutch Petroleum Co held that in order for the court to have jurisdiction under the ATS, there must be contact between the actions taking place in the USA and Uganda which has ‘sufficient force to displace the presumption against extraterritorial application’ of US legislation. The Court allowed Lively’s motion to dismiss the case on the basis that the Court’s jurisdiction could not be established. Apart from sending e-mails about how the Anti-Homosexuality Bill can be moved forward and ways of repressing advocacy in favour of LGBTI persons in Uganda, Lively did not do anything from the United States of America. His most significant efforts in support of the campaign against homosexuality occurred in Uganda.

Even though the motion to dismiss the case has been allowed on jurisdictional grounds, the Court made it clear that Lively’s actions of aiding and abetting efforts to demonise, intimidate and injure LGBTI people in Uganda constitute violations of international law. The Court also spoke out against Lively’s actions in repressing freedom of expression of LGBTI people in Uganda, depriving them of the protection of the law and rendering their very existence illegal.

The order was delivered on 5 June 2017.

Order granting summary judgment in Scott Lively case

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