A Ghana court has dismissed the case against 21 LGBT+ people who were arrested in May, ruling there is not enough evidence to prove they gathered unlawfully.
“What this means is that they cannot be brought back to court on the same charges. So they have been freed,” chief superintendent Akologo Yakubu Ayamga told Reuters.
The 16 women and five men were arrested at a hotel in May, with police saying they had gathered illegally to promote LGBT+ activities with books and flyers titled “Coming out” and “All about Trans”.
The arrests were made on 21 May, after the 21 LGBT+ activists met at a hotel for nurses and midwives in the southeastern city of Ho.
Local LGBT+ rights group Rightify Ghana said the meeting was a training event, teaching queer people to document and report human rights violations being experienced by LGBT+ Ghanaians.
Activists claimed that a group of journalists had stormed the meeting, detaining attendees until police arrived.
Local law enforcement charged the 16 women and five men with attending an illegal gathering.
Both advocates and the UN said the detention violates international human rights laws.
“All evidence available to us points to the fact that they were detained while they were peacefully exercising their rights to freedom of expression, peaceful assembly and association,” UN experts said.
After three weeks in prison, a judge granted bail to the “Ho 21” on 11 June, releasing them from police custody where they had been held for 21 days.
LGBT+ in Ghana
LGBT+ people face widespread persecution in Ghana, where colonial-era laws criminalising homosexuality mean that gay sex is punishable by up to three years in prison.
The community has suffered increasing hostility from the state in 2021.
In February, the group LGBT+ Rights Ghana was subjected to an unlawful police raid at its office – supported by the building’s landlord as well as national security agents – forced it to flee “and go into hiding for their safety“.
During March, MPs outlined their intentions to push a new bill to ban any kind of LGBT+ “advocacy”.
The 30 MPs, forming the group “Believers Against LGBTI+“, are now leading “the charge against criminalising LGBT+ activities in Ghana.
And in April, 22 people were arrested as when police raiding a home in Obomeng, Kwahu South – all because authorities suspected a “lesbian wedding” was taking place there.