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Gay rights activist won't be returned to Uganda
by Matt Simonette
2014-02-20

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Dr. Paul Nsubuga Semugoma, a Ugandan physician and gay rights activist living in South Africa, will not be deported back to Uganda.

Semugoma was released in the late afternoon of Feb. 20, according to a Facebook posting by Coalition of African Lesbians, an activist group arguing for his release.

"Paul is finally free and united with [his partner] Brian. Let justice prevail!" said the posting.

Semugoma, who has lived in South Africa for about three years, was detained by authorities after traveling to Zimbabwe and faced with the probability of return to Uganda. There he would have been subject to that country's strict anti-gay laws, which are likely to worsen since President Yoweri Museveni plans on signing legislation tightening restrictions even further.

Semugoma was a vocal critic of Uganda's treatment of its gay citizens. After his release, he will be issued a work permit and will be able to apply for political asylum in South Africa, according to the CAL posting.

City Press, a Johannesburg newspaper, reported Feb. 19 that six activist groups had taken up Semugoma's cause. Marcus Low of the Treatment Action Campaign told City Press that Semugoma "would definitely be in danger if he returned to Uganda now because of the current climate and because he is openly gay and openly critical of the homophobic law."

President Obama has said that the laws can have serious repercussions for relations between Uganda and the U.S., from whom Uganda receives a great deal of aid. Furthermore some representatives from Illinois also addressed the law.

U.S. Sen. Mark Kirk, R-IL, showed support for Semugoma on Feb. 19. "No one should be persecuted because of their work to improve the lives of others. Deporting Dr. Semugoma would make the South African government an accomplice to Uganda's unjust persecution," said a spokesperson for Kirk.

U.S. Rep. Mike Quigley, D-IL, said Feb. 20, "I have grave concerns for the civil rights and safety of anyone forced to live under the archaic, anti-LGBT laws pervasive in Uganda, Nigeria and other countries pursing similar agendas around the world. The criminalization of citizens based on sexual orientation is completely unacceptable, and the United States has a moral responsibility to stand up against this type of reprehensible oppression."

CAL's Facebook posting is here: https://www.facebook.com/CoalitionCAL

City Press's story is here: www.citypress.co.za/news/sa-urged-deport-ugandan-doctor/ .

South Africa: Authorities Release LGBTI Ally

From a IGLHRC news release

(20 February 2014, Johannesburg)—The International Gay and Lesbian Human Rights Commission (IGLHRC) celebrates the release of Dr. Paul Semugoma, a Ugandan medical doctor and human rights activist, who had been detained by immigration officials at O.R. Tambo International Airport in South Africa since Monday 17 February 2014. Dr. Semugoma was released today when the South African Department of Home Affairs offered him an exceptional skills visa for three years.

Earlier this week, IGLHRC wrote to the President of South Africa requesting the implementation of a court order to release Dr. Semugoma, and expressing concern over the conditions of detention at the airport. In doing so, IGLHRC stood in solidarity with many human rights activists in South Africa and around the world who also pressured the South African authorities to release Dr. Semugoma.

"Given his outstanding activism on LGBTI rights, Dr. Paul Semugoma's personal security would not be guaranteed in Uganda at this time," said Thomas Ndayiragije, Senior Program Officer for Africa at IGLHRC. He added, "I deplore President Museveni's decision to sign into law the draconian anti-homosexuality bill and we stand by local activists who are fighting to repeal this law and are working toward making Uganda a safe place for all people."

Thomas Ndayiragije (Left), Senior Program Officer for Africa at IGLHRC, greeted Dr. Semugoma upon his release. Photo courtesy IGLHRC.

Background

Dr. Paul Semugoma is a Ugandan medical doctor and prominent advocate for the rights of lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender (LGBT) individuals and communities. He has lived in the Republic of South Africa for the last two years and continued activism work while his application for an exceptional skills visa was pending.

On Monday 17 February 2014, while returning from a business trip in Zimbabwe, he was arrested and detained at O.R. Tambo International Airport. At that time, immigration officials informed Dr. Semugoma that his visa application had been unsuccessful and that he faced imminent deportation to Uganda. On Tuesday, 19 February, immigration officials presented a one-way ticket to Entebbe, Uganda for Dr. Semugoma, and tried to force him on the plane despite a court order by the South Gauteng High Court demanding his release. There were numerous calls for his release by human rights activists in South Africa and around the world.

The International Gay and Lesbian Human Rights Commission (IGLHRC), founded in 1990, is a leading international human rights organization dedicated to improving the lives of people who experience discrimination or abuse on the basis of their sexual orientation, gender identity or expression. www.iglhrc.org .

Kirk: Ugandan doctor should not be deported

By Matt Simonette

U.S. Sen. Mark Kirk's office on Feb. 19 voiced support for Dr. Paul Nsubuga Semugoma, a Ugandan physician and gay rights activist facing imminent deportation from South Africa back to Uganda.

Six rights groups are trying to have the deportation stopped; Semugoma, who had been in South Africa for three years, was a vocal critic of Uganda's anti-gay laws.

"No one should be persecuted because of their work to improve the lives of others. Deporting Dr. Semugoma would make the South African government an accomplice to Uganda's unjust persecution," said a spokesperson for Kirk.

Semugoma, who had twice failed to obtain a work permit in South Africa, was detained after returning from a trip to Zimbabwe, according to the City Press, a Johannesburg publication.

Marcus Low of the Treatment Action Campaign told City Press that Semugoma had "been a very active opponent of the [Ugandan] homophobic law. He would definitely be in danger if he returned to Uganda now because of the current climate and because he is openly gay and openly critical of the homophobic law."

In a Feb. 16 statement, President Obama said the Ugandan bill "will be more than an affront and a danger to the gay community in Uganda. It will be a step backward for all Ugandans and reflect poorly on Uganda's commitment to protecting the human rights of its people. It also will mark a serious setback for all those around the world who share a commitment to freedom, justice and equal rights."

Obama also warned that the bill would complicate the relationship between Uganda and the U.S., from whom it receives a great deal of aid.

The bill tightens already harsh restrictions against gays, prohibiting even mentioning homosexuality without condemning it. It also included restrictions against lesbians for the first time.

The White House convened an interagency meeting Feb. 19 to address harsh anti-LGBT laws in Uganda and Nigeria, BuzzFeed reported.

City Press' article can be found at: www.citypress.co.za/news/sa-urged-deport-ugandan-doctor/ .

BuzzFeed's article can be found at: www.buzzfeed.com/lesterfeder/as-activists-say-us-should-have-done-more-to-block-anti-gay .


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