Wednesday, 7 September 2005

Bid to Deport Gay Ugandan Torture Victim by UK Government

Source: UK Gay News

A twenty-five years old refugee who was jailed by the Ugandan government for his gay human rights work and subjected to four months of forced labour, water torture, beatings and rape, from May to September 2004, is today facing deportation, Outrage! has revealed today.

It was only the ‘eleventh hour’ intervention of a Member of Parliament that stopped the refugee from being deported last week.

The British Home Office wants to deport Kizza Musinguzi on the grounds that it claims the abuse he was subject to does not constitute persecution.  It says Mr Musinguzi is a not a legitimate asylum seeker and does not qualify as a genuine refugee.

And Outrage! has also re veiled allegations that the Ugandan was subjected to serious mistreatment by the British authorities after arriving in the country and seeking asylum, with much of the treatment being not unlike what he was subjected to in Uganda.

In Harmondsworth asylum detention centre in west London, described by Outrage! as “an often lawless place where the human rights of asylum seekers are systematically abused without redress”, Mr Musinguzi alleges that staff racially and homophobically abused him as a “nigger” and “batty boy”,

He says he was denied him medical treatment for the effects of rape and torture, forced him through the asylum system without legal representation, confiscated his asylum papers and asthma inhaler, subjected him to the sexual abuse of an unwarranted internal anal examination, and attempted to deport him without serving him with a removal order.

The Home Office forced Mr Musinguzi through the asylum system without legal representation. Having no solicitor and no knowledge of the UK legal system, and being detained and unable to gather evidence to support his asylum claim, he failed at every hearing.

He was forced to represent himself in an appeal against refusal of asylum and to write his own application for a statutory review of his case.

Then the Home Office fast-tracked Mr Musinguzi for deportation as a failed asylum seeker.  He is now fighting deportation with legal support and advice from the LGBT human rights group OutRage!

Peter Tatchell of OutRage! drafted an application to halt Mr Musinguzi’s unlawful deportation on  September 21.  This was forwarded to Home Office Minister, Tony McNulty MP, and endorsed by Harmondworth Labour MP, John McDonnell, whose intervention resulted in Mr Musinguzi’s deportation being stopped just as he was about to be put on a plane at Heathrow airport.

Mr Musinguzi comes from a political dissident family. His father was murdered by the Ugandan security services in November 1997, after seeking election in a constituency contested by a government Minister who is now the second deputy Prime Minister, Henry Kajura.

His mother and sister were arrested in February 2001 because of their work for the Ugandan opposition movement, the Reform Agenda. They have never been seen or heard of since they were seized.

Fearing for his life, Mr Musinguzi fled to Britain and claimed asylum. He was placed in detention at Harmondsworth asylum removal centre in west London on 5 May 2005.

Last month and desperate for legal help, Mr Musingizi appointed Peter Tatchell as his legal representative, as he is entitled to do.  He instructed Mr Tatchell to submit a fresh claim for asylum, based on new evidence gathered by an independent researcher, which confirms widespread homophobic persecution in Uganda.  Mr Tatchell submitted this fresh asylum claim on September 15.

Yet the Harmondsworth Fast Rack Office refused to accept Mr Tatchell as his legal representative and refused to accept the fresh claim.  They actively blocked attempts by Mr Musinguzi to confirm that Mr Tatchell was acting on his instructions.

On September 21, the Home Office attempted to deport Mr Musinguzi, despite his fresh claim for asylum based on new evidence and despite the fact that he was never served with a removal order.

Mr Tatchell contacted Harmondsworth’s Labour MP, John McDonnell, who got the deportation order stopped just as Mr Musinguizi was being frog-marched onto a flight back to Uganda.

Mr Musinguzi is now being held at Colnbrook detention centre in west London; still under threat of deportation.

During his five months detention in Harmondsworth, Mr Musinguzi was denied medical screening, treatment and counselling for the effects of rape and torture – despite suffering from intense pain in his groin and bleeding when defecating.

He alleges that Harmondsworth staff subjected him to racist, homophobic and sexual abuse, including an unwarranted and unexplained strip-search and internal anal examination, which echoed the abuse he suffered in Uganda.

Staff allegedly insulted him with taunts like “come here nigger” and “batty boy”.

And the Harmondaworth staff confiscated Mr Musinguzi’s asthma inhaler soon after his arrival, causing him months of breathing difficulties and great distress.  They also confiscated all his papers relating to his asylum claim.

In a letter to the Home Office minister, Tony McNulty MP, dated 22 September, Mr Tatchell wrote:

“I respectfully request that any action to remove Mr Musinguzi from the United Kingdom be suspended, pending his securing of professional legal representation, the formal presentation of the new evidence by Mr Musinguzi’s new solicitors, an assessment of Mr Musinguzi by the Medical Foundation for the Care of Victims of Torture, the administration of appropriate medical treatment, and an investigation of his claims of abuse by staff at Harmondsworth.”

Commenting on Mr Musinguzi’s treatment by the Home Office, Mr Tatchell said: “Mr Musinguzi’s fast-tracking through the asylum system without legal representation is typical of the way many asylum applicants are denied a fair hearing.

“We know from our experience that very few asylum claimants receive adequate legal representation.

“The fast track system is fundamentally flawed.  It’s aim is to deport as many asylum seekers as quickly as possible; usually with scant regard to the merit of individual cases.

“Harmondsworth is an often lawless place where the human rights of asylum seekers are systematically abused without redress.

“Staff can make potentially life and death decisions without any proper checks and balances against the violation of an asylum seeker’s legal, medical and emotional welfare.

“The entire asylum system needs reform to ensure that every asylum claimant gets adequate legal representation and medical attention.

“We thank Labour MP John McDonnell for his help in getting Mr Musinguzi’s deportation halted last week,” said Mr Tatchell.

“It is extremely significant and disturbing that a 25-year old non-violent gay-rights activist should be detained and tortured in Uganda’s most violent anti-terrorism facilities, he continued.

“This is suggestive of an ongoing risk of torture and abuse if Mr Musinguzi is returned to Uganda.

“It is essential to Kizza’s fresh asylum claim that he is urgently examined by a doctor able to give him a full medical examination, since he has traces of injuries consistent with his account of torture,” Mr. Tatchell concluded.

Evidence of homophobic persecution in Uganda, and of the torture and rape of Kizza Musinguzi        

Kizza Musinguzi is a Ugandan gay activist who has been detained at Harmondsworth since 5 May, 2005.

He was a member of the Ugandan gay rights group Lesgabix. This organisation and its members were subjected to homophobic persecution by the Ugandan authorities. The murder of one of its members in 2001 was reported on the African gay rights website, Behind the Mask, (Archive, 2001, accessible by Google search by ‘Lesgabix, Uganda’).

After the state suppression of Lesgabix, Kizza worked with Sexual Minorities Uganda, whose members the security services detained and mistreated as recently as 20 July 2005 (see Amnesty International Index: AFR 59/003/2005 (Public), News Service No: 208, 2 August 2005).

We can confirm the existence and bona fides of the human rights group Sexual Minorities Uganda, and the fact that this group and its members have suffered sustained state persecution.

Kizza was arrested in May 2004 and tortured in the notorious secret Joint Anti-Terrorism facility at Kololo, deemed illegal by Human Rights Watch (Human Rights Watch: Uganda: Concerns regarding Torture: Patterns and cases of torture, May 2005,

This torture of Mr Musinguzi at Kololo included instrumental rape (with a large, coarse corn cob) by state agents, causing internal wounds and bleeding, and severe groin pain, which continue to this day. At Kololo he was also beaten repeatedly while chained to a wall.

Kizza was then transferred to Luzira Upper Prison in May 2004, where 23-year old Benjamin Buloba was apparently raped until he died in agony in October (See The Monitor, Kampala, December 5, 2004, Financial Times Information, All Africa Global Media, Diseases, overcrowding raging in jailhouses,). He was kept in Luzira from 13th to 26th May 2004.

Kizza was transferred again to one of Uganda's main political detention facilities, at Gulu, in Northern Uganda, which has been the subject of several Human Rights Watch enquiries, most recently in May 2005.

He was required to perform forced labour at Gulu from 26 May 2004 until approximately 4 September 2004. At Gulu, he was beaten regularly on his head, legs and back with sticks, gun-butts and heavy wet folded towels.

These beatings happened approximately every two days.

He was also frequently slapped. When he was unable to lift blocks of stone, around 29 May 2004, shortly after his arrival at Gulu, he was blindfolded, gagged and force-fed water through his nose for about ten minutes. The guards repeated this procedure towards the end of June. This and many of the other instances of abuse were accompanied by ethno-centric/tribalist and homophobic abuse, and threats he would be burned alive.
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